Can Physical Therapy Save You Money?

Save Money with PT

“I’ve been having this pain for months now, but physical therapy is too expensive. We can’t make it work right now.” Although there are costs associated with sessions, physical therapy can save you money. In the long term? It can save you more than money.

Every clinic runs into the same predicament — the cost of service is hardly ever perceived as worth the investment. In fact, less than 10-12% of patients that get referred to physical therapy from their doctors ever go for an initial evaluation and get to the root of their pain.

If it’s cost keeping you away, or maybe it’s fear of movement, understanding the risks compared to the fears can give you peace of mind, or maybe even change it.

5 Hard Facts from Scientific Databases

1. Each year, half of all Americans over the age of 18 will develop a musculoskeletal injury that lasts longer than three months. That’s more than a hundred million people who could benefit from seeing a physical therapist.

2. In 2011, only about 11.7 million adults took advantage of outpatient physical therapy services, which means only 9.58% of the people who could have benefited from physical therapy services ever received them. Even if these numbers have positively shifted over the past several years, physical therapy needs to be the first place to go for musculoskeletal injuries. From there, anything more serious can be ruled out, and if a visit to your doctor is necessary it will be decided in your evaluation.

3. Studies show an average savings of $2,736 when an individual seeks physical therapy within 14 days of onset of low back pain. The money saved is due to decreases in spending on advanced imaging (i.e. MRI), additional physician visits, surgery, injections (i.e. epidurals), and opioid medications. 

4. “Another study saw better outcomes when patients sought out physical therapy within 6 weeks of onset of pain. The categories of improved outcomes included disability, general health, social function, mental health, vitality, anxiety, and depression.”

The risk of chronic pain was also decreased. Dealing with pain for weeks rather than years can significantly impact your well-being. There is no benefit to toughing it out and pushing through pain. In fact, there are only noted setbacks!

5. Compared to patients who saw a PT later or never, patients who saw a PT first had lower probability of having an opioid prescription (89.4%), any advanced imaging services (27.9%), and an Emergency Department visit (14.7%). These patients also had significantly lower out‐of‐pocket costs. Costs appeared to shift away from outpatient and pharmacy toward provider settings. When LBP patients saw a PT first, there was lower utilization of high‐cost medical services as well as lower opioid use, and cost shifts reflecting the change in utilization. 

Cost of Over-Medicalization

Over medicalization refers to the healthcare industry treating every condition that walks through the doors as a treatable illness or condition, and prescribing either medication or some type of intervention. In this paper we estimate the medical spending in the U.S. of identified medicalized conditions at approximately $77 billion in 2005, 3.9% of total domestic expenditures on health care.

In fact, 1 in 4 American families report not being able to pay a medical bill or have some type of financial hardship following a hospital visit. And when medical debt piles up, that can lead to difficult financial decisions, such as needing to cut back on food, clothing, or other basic household items.

If your pain or injury is not a medical emergency, but is stemming from a musculoskeletal origin (bone, muscle, ligament, tendon, etc.) get in to see a doctor of physical therapy to get anything serious ruled out and on your way to recovery. Physical therapy can save you money on over-medicalization and unnecessary treatments.

The Cost of Chronic Illness & Becoming Sedentary

Chronic pain affects more than the brain. The phrase “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” applies to the human body just as much as it applies to a learned skill. When you deal with pain for a long time, which our body doesn’t like, it learns to avoid movement, which can reproduce our pain. So the body learns to compensate and/or decrease the use of particular body parts. As a result, the muscles start to atrophy, your ligaments, bones and tendons weaken, and you get into poor movement patterns…which leads to poor health.

Our bodies are meant to move and thrive. Our bones and muscles need weight put through them to continue to grow and remain strong. Waiting until the pain goes away isn’t always the best option, because in the meantime, your body is already learning how to compensate and avoid using specific parts of your body. Now the initial area involved needs to rehabilitate AND overcome learned movement patterns.

How Can I Start Saving Money?

Go and see your favorite Doctor of Physical Therapy and get moving again! Don’t wait until the costs of time and money start to add up. If you have something that stems from a muscle, bone, tendon, joint, etc. go and see your physical therapist instead of wishing the pain away or going for band-aid solutions like creams and medications.

At APEX we not only want to see you improve, but we want you to get out and live your best life! It’s our goal to have semi-annual check-ups with our clients to make sure you’re continuing to #champion your own body! If the time and cost are an issue, think about everything already presented. By now I’m sure you can see, physical therapy can save you money. Especially since the cost of a lingering medical condition can make one evaluation worth your time and money.

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