New Study Shows How Approving Physical Therapy Can Reduce Medication Costs in a Workers’ Compensation Claim

I always encourage my clients to approve requests for physical therapy as often as possible.  It has been my experience that having injured workers participate in physical therapy gets them over their injuries and back into the workforce fairly quickly.  That’s a win-win situation.  A new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Duke University School of Medicine backs that up.

I first heard about this study in an article released last week on workerscompensation.com  Here is a link to that article if you would like to read about the study in more detail.  According to Eric Sun, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine at Stanford “if you can get these patients on physical therapy reasonably quickly, that reduces the probability that they’ll be using opioids in the longer term.”

The study found that the odds of patients being prescribed opioid pain medications three months to a year after their initial pain diagnosis were lower if they had participated in at least one physical therapy session within 90 days of their diagnosis. The odds were reduced by 16 percent for patients with knee pain, 15 percent for shoulder pain, 8 percent for neck pain and 7 percent for lower back pain.

The study also measured whether physical therapy resulted in decreased long term opioid use.  Patients who participated in physical therapy early on used 10.3 percent less opioid medication for knee pain; 9.7 percent less for shoulder pain; and 5.1 percent less for back pain three months to a year after their diagnosis. Patients with neck pain saw no significant reduction in opioid use.  A link to an article about the study found in Science Daily can be found here.

The long and short of it is, if you receive a request for initial physical therapy, approve it. What about repeated physical therapy requests, and physical therapy performed at a chiropractor’s office?  Well, that’s the subject for another post, because I’ve got a lot of thoughts, most of them negative, about those.

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