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Physical Therapy for Low Back Pain: Reduce Symptoms and Increase Function

In this study two physical therapists (PTs) at the University of Wisconsin - Madison review the records of 133 patients treated for low back disorders. There were three goals:
  • Describe the types of treatments given by PTs to low back pain (LBP) patients
  • See if length of time symptoms are present makes a difference in the results
  • Identify factors that improve or delay recovery from LBP

    Patients were divided into three groups (acute, subacute, chronic) based on length of time symptoms were present. Patients were seen five to eight times each week for up to 11 weeks. Patients with chronic symptoms had more visits than patients in the acute stage.

    Results of treatment were measured based on pain, function, and perceived improvement. Patients filled out a survey with questions about walking, work, personal care, sleeping, and recreation and sports.

    The authors report pain decreased equally in all three groups. Patients in the chronic pain group had lower perceived recovery compared to the acute group. Function improved and disability decreased the most for patients who had symptoms for less than one month. Patients whose treatment included manual therapy (joint mobilization and/or manipulation) also had better results.

    Studies of this type help physical therapists manage patients with LBP. Knowing the best choice of treatment and best time to offer therapy services help PTs make a prognosis and improve patient results.


    Mary Beth Badke, PT, PhD, and William G. Boissonnault, PT, DHSc. Changes in Disability Following Physical Therapy Intervention for Patients with Low Back Pain: Dependence on Symptom Duration. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. June 2006. Vol. 87. No. 6. Pp. 749-756.

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    *Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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