Is physical therapy helpful for acute back pain with sciatica?

Although a referral to physical regiman is a standard part of my therapy plan for cases with subacute or chronic low back suffering, there is little data on the effectiveness of physical regiman for acute back suffering. A 2018 Family Physicians Inquiries Network( FPIN) Clinical Inquiry published in American Family Physician found that physical therapy begun within 24 hours of clinical exhibition offer negligible improvements in pain, pride, and mental health at one week that disappear by 1 month. Physical therapy started within 48 to 72 hours of exhibition had no significant effects on anguish and disability benefits. A 2002 randomized ordeal acquired no differences in pain or acts of daily living in patients with acute low-spirited back pain with sciatica who were assigned to bed rest, physical care, or a dominate group. A 2008 study reported that physical regiman added to customary care from a general practitioner improved patients’ world supposed outcome but had no effects on pain and disability benefits. Another FPIN Clinical Inquiry on treatments for sciatica concluded that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, systemic steroids, topiramate, pregabalin, traction, and best rest were all ineffective and had potential adverse impact. The writers did not review physical therapy.

A single-blind randomized insured ordeal published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine likened early referral to physical therapy to usual care in 220 adults aged 18 to 60 years with acute back pain with sciatica for less than 90 periods. Players were banked from primary care rehearsals in two health care systems( Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah ). All participants received an evidence-based patient education booklet about low-grade back tendernes; patients assigned to the intervention group were scheduled for 6 to 8 practise and manual rehabilitation sessions over 4 weeks with one of the study physical therapists. The primary sequel was altered in the Oswestry Disability Index( OSW) rating from baseline after 6 months.

Compared to the usual care group, involvement radical participants reported greater improvements in OSW composes at 6 months( 5.4 tops) and one year( 4.8 extents ). They also had lower back hurting strength and were more likely to report treatment success after one year( 45% vs. 28% for normal care ). Nonetheless, health care use and missed workdays were not significantly different between groups.

Although this study’s ensues appear to support early referral to physical therapy for cases with acute back pain with sciatica, they come with some caveats. The minimal clinically important difference on the OSW for this condition is 6 to 8 degrees, greater than the mean phase estimates of between-group inconsistencies seen in this study. Also, since participates were not blinded to their group assignment and the usual care group did not receive discussions with a analogous contact meter as the physical rehabilitation times, it’s possible that the meagre improvement had less to do with the rehabilitation than the caring attention that cases received from the therapists. The cost-effectiveness of referring every patient with this condition to a physical therapist is also uncertain.

Nonetheless, given the limited alternatives currently available for cases with acute back pain with sciatica, it seems reasonable to refer to a physical therapist rather than prescribe ineffective drug therapy or ordering unnecessary and potentially harmful imaging studies.


This post first appeared on the AFP Community Blog.

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