Starting physical therapy sooner than later can significantly improve outcomes and lower costs after workers suffer on-the-job injuries causing low back pain, a study of nearly 26,000 Workers’ Compensation claims suggests.
The study by Workers’ Compensation Research Institute found a strong correlation between the timing of physical therapy and outcomes for injured workers with low back pain. Physical therapy was associated with less use of opioid pain medications, less frequent reliance on invasive procedures and shorter disability.
If you have been injured on the job and your worker’s comp claim is being disputed, call the Joye Law Firm at 888-324-3100. From our offices in North Charleston, Columbia, Clinton and Myrtle Beach, we help injured workers seek the full benefits available by law to rebuild their lives. Our lawyers have earned numerous professional recognitions. The 2021 edition of The Best Lawyers in America® recognized seven of our lawyers at Joye Law Firm for their work representing injured workers in workers’ compensation cases. Our law firm has achieved a prestigious AV rating by Martindale-Hubble, an indication of how our peers view us. Contact us now for a free consultation.
Workers with Injuries Receiving Physical Therapy
The study conducted by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute, an independent, not-for-profit organization included workers’ compensation claims from South Carolina and 26 other states. The institute’s work informs decision-makers in best practices regarding key facets of Workers’ Compensation.
After controlling for a number of factors, “we conclude that for workers with lower-back pain-only injuries for which physical therapy is indicated, PT within 14 days after injury is likely to be beneficial,” the authors of the study said.
How Early Physical Therapy Helps Injured Workers with Low Back Pain
Low back pain has been documented as a work-related affliction for many decades.
Back injuries are the leading cause of all musculoskeletal insurance claims, which are the most frequent cause of workers’ compensation claims. For this reason, many progressive industries have employed lift teams specially trained in ergonomics and have installed assistive devices to reduce work-related back injuries in the workplace.
One of many treatments for Workers’ Comp back pain injuries has been physical therapy (PT). But approaches have varied about when during the recovery process to begin PT and how frequently to have it.
The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute’s study makes a persuasive case that the earlier PT is begun, the better. This is a game-changer, since historically PT has been a last resort, not the first, according to Lynch Ryan with Workers’ Comp Insider. Opioids and invasive procedures were the preferred treatment.
Other take-aways from the research:
- Starting PT later is associated with longer temporary disability (TD) duration. On average, the number of weeks per temporary disability claim was 58 percent longer for those with PT initiated more than 30 days post-injury and 24 percent longer for those with PT starting 15 to 30 days post-injury, compared with claims with PT within 3 days post-injury.
- Workers whose PT treatment started more than 30 days post-injury were 46 and 47 percent more likely to receive opioid prescriptions and MRI, respectively, compared with those who had PT treatment initiated within 3 days of injury.
- The average payment for all medical services received during the first year of treatment was lower for workers with early PT compared with those with late PT. For example, the average medical cost per claim for workers who had PT more than 30 days post-injury was 24 percent higher than for those who had PT within 3 days post-injury.
- Among claims with PT treatment starting more than 30 days post-injury, the percentage with attorney involvement was considerably higher (27 percent compared with 13–15 percent among those in the early PT groups) and workers received initial medical care much later (on average 18 days compared with 2–3 days in the early PT groups).
Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you’ve been dealing with low back pain following an on-the-job injury, the findings in this study should prompt you to discuss with your doctor ordering PT early in the recovery process. If your employer or the employer’s insurance administrator has contested your workers’ comp claim, contact the workers’ comp attorneys at Joye Law Firm.
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