According to a recent survey commissioned by ATI Physical Therapy (ATI), 88% of Americans have previously experienced chronic back/neck/knee pain, or musculoskeletal (MSK) pain, but only 76% have sought professional help for pain management.

Conducted by global market research firm The Harris Poll among more than 2,000 US adults, the consumer behavior survey sought to examine Americans’ behavior in relation to chronic MSK pain, pain thresholds, and pain management.  

The survey results suggest many Americans wait until their pain becomes unbearable before seeking treatment – regardless of a pandemic or not – needlessly suffering in silence, Bolingbrook, Ill-based ATI Physical Therapy suggests in a media release.

Nearly three in five Americans (59%) say they seek professional help for pain management when they experience chronic back/neck/knee pain for a week or longer. Additionally, roughly half of Americans (51%) say on a scale from one to ten that a pain level of 7 or more prompts them to seek professional help for treatment of chronic back/neck/knee pain. 

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Dr Charles Thigpen, PhD, PT, ATC, Sr Director of Practice Innovation & Analytics for ATI, suggests that many Americans delay treatment for pain due to lack of awareness of options such as physical therapy. The delay in treatment often leads to opioids for pain, unnecessary advanced imaging like MRIs or even surgery, resulting in costly treatments that don’t always work.

Physical therapy is lesser known by patients as an option, but is effective and cost-efficient for treating and resolving chronic MSK pain. In fact, physical therapists can diagnose and treat more than 70% of MSK conditions directly without a primary care or specialty physician, both in-person and via telehealth, according to a study published in the Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy

“These results suggest many Americans consider high pain levels to be ‘normal,’ but it doesn’t have to be this way. Physical therapists can provide an accurate diagnosis and the best path of care, while saving patients money, time and peace of mind. In today’s climate, virtual physical therapy sessions offer a safe way for patients suffering from chronic MSK pain to receive the critical care their body needs and deserves, helping them achieve wellness from the comfort of their homes and with the help of a licensed physical or occupational therapist.” 

— Dr Charles Thigpen, PhD, PT, ATC

Additional survey findings, per the release, include:

  • American consumers ages 35-44 are the most likely to seek professional help for pain management when experiencing chronic back/neck/knee pain (84% vs. 77% ages 18-34, 73% ages 45-54, 75% ages 55-64 and 69% ages 65+).
  • Women (55%) are more likely to wait to seek help when experiencing chronic back/neck/knee pain than men (47%), until the pain level is 7 or higher.
  • A similar proportion of Americans across all household income (HHI) levels are prompted to seek pain management when experiencing chronic back/neck/knee pain levels of 7 or higher (50% of those with annual HHI of less than $50k, 55% of those with annual HHI of $50k-$74.9k, 52% of those with annual HHI of $75k-$99.9k and 51% of those with annual HHI of $100k+), suggesting income is not a barrier to those in need of treatment. 
  • Majority of Americans wait one week or longer to seek professional help for pain management of chronic back/neck/knee pain regardless of the U.S. region they’re located in (61% in Northeast, 55% in South, 62% in Midwest, 61% in West). 

“ATI Physical Therapy has worked tirelessly to ensure our clinics and telehealth services are readily available to offer a continuity of care for those in need of safe and effective pain management solutions. Living in pain should not be the new normal. No matter what challenges life throws our way, we envision a world where all patients have access to cost-effective and non-evasive choices in their treatment of MSK-related issues.”

— Ray Wahl, Chief Operations Officer, ATI Physical Therapy

Physical therapy not only provides pain relief, but it also resolves pain more effectively and helps avoid additional medical care. The study in the Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy also found that 68% of patients with direct access to PT had resolved symptoms without further medical treatment.

Other studies, including a May 2018 study published in Health Services Research, suggest that PT helps decrease the costs of other types of pain management treatments, including an 89% lower probability of needing an opioid prescription, a 28% lower probability of having imaging services, and a 15% lower probability of a costly ER visit.

For more information, visit ATI Physical Therapy.

[Source(s): ATI Physical Therapy, GlobeNewswire]