A recent study conducted by the Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation (APTQI) has concluded that the cost savings associated with physical therapy for low back pain is highly significant.

Based on the results of this study, it was found that physical therapy is not only initially cheaper than injections and/or surgery, but it is a means to save on the low back pain treatments for up to a year after the initial diagnosis. Physical therapy offers 18% savings over injectable treatments and 50% savings over surgical-based treatments.

If more employers were given this information, they would likely opt for physical therapy as the first treatment course for employees that experience low back pain.

Employer-Sponsored Programs

Study Details

The study that concluded the effectiveness of physical therapy focused – specifically – on the claims from Medicare parts A and B.

This covered a total of 472,000 beneficiaries that were officially diagnosed with low back pain. Each of the patients received their treatment in 2014, from February to October.

The treatment paths that were tracked in the study were injections for low back pain, physical therapy, as well as surgery. Each of the costs associated with the three treatment paths were evaluated, as well as the costs incurred for a year after receiving the low back pain diagnosis. In addition to this, the following was evaluated:

  • Costs based on the initiation of physical therapy
  • The type of interventions utilized by physical therapists
  • The relations between the health provider that made the referral to physical therapy and the actual utilization of the treatment measure


The Findings

Many conclusive points were made as a result of the study. These include the following:

  • In terms of intervention costs, physical therapy ended up being 10% lower than the costs incurred among the patients that utilized injections as the initial treatment path and 75% lower than those that had surgery first.
  • Patients that underwent physical therapy as the initial treatment path incurred far fewer expenses than those that were on the other two treatment paths.
  • Early physical therapy intervention results in lower – overall – costs.
  • Physical therapy was the most commonly prescribed treatment for those suffering from low back pain.
  • While doctors most commonly diagnose low back pain among patients, orthopedic doctors account for the absolute highest referral rate to physical therapy services.
  • Many patients that receive a low back pain diagnosis do not undergo any type of initial treatment within the first year after their diagnosis.



Regardless of aim or angle, patients that suffer from low back pain due to an injury, overuse, or another health-related complication are found to experience the highest amount of benefits by utilizing physical therapy services.

Not only is the treatment inexpensive, but, it provides patients with the tools, resources, and information that they require to manage the pain, stiffness, and other complications that result from low back pain problems.

This makes the case for employee-sponsored programs.

If you would like to learn more about this study and similar types of information, visit our blog today at: https://coloradophysicaltherapynetwork.com/blog/