A nationwide sample of therapists reveals the buying trends behind pain management products and technology.

By Cassandra Perez

The use of technology and equipment for pain management is an essential tool for rehabilitation professionals to achieve successful patient outcomes. As technology and pain management products play a central role in healthcare, it is important for physical therapy clinics to utilize the latest technology and equipment to provide exceptional care for patients coping with pain. Physical Therapy Products conducted a nationwide reader survey of physical therapists to gain insight and feedback about the different treatment modalities utilized for pain management and what influences their purchasing decisions. The results of this survey have been summarized with accompanying charts for visual representation of the data.

The survey respondents provided valuable information about the types of injuries treated most in their respective clinics, which included work-related injuries such as low back strain and repetitive strain injuries, fall-related injuries, arthritis and arthritis-related pain, and low back and neck pain. Additional injuries commonly seen by the survey participants include: overuse injuries; injuries to the shoulder, neck, spinal cord, and back; orthopedic injuries; sports-related injuries; fractures; and muscle sprains and strains.

The rehabilitation professionals also discussed the product names they first think of regarding pain management products and equipment. Several of the products mentioned by respondents were those manufactured or distributed by Biofreeze, Rocktape, Kinesio, Sombra, Mettler, Rich-Mar, OPTP, and DJO Global companies such as Chattanooga and Empi. Other products and product names listed by respondents include TENS devices, hot and cold packs, iontophoresis, topical analgesics (Tiger Balm), and various over-the-counter medicine brands.

Survey respondents detailed the types of products they use most to help manage client pain, and hot and cold therapy received the highest response with 17% of participants, while electrical stimulation was the second most popular treatment among respondents (15%). Ultrasound is also used to manage pain, and 14% of respondents say they utilize this treatment, while TENS (12%) and therapeutic taping (12%) and topical treatments (11%) were also commonly used. Iontophoresis is used by 8% of survey participants, and laser therapy is utilized by 7% of the survey respondents.

Screen Shot 3PM

To gain insight about the buying habits of rehabilitation professionals, Physical Therapy Products asked respondents about the factors that influence why they try a new pain management product or technique. A total of 18% of participants said reimbursement was the reason for trying a new pain management treatment option, while 14% said it was a new technology on the market. Recommendation from a colleague or client was the most popular reason for trying out a new product or technique with 23% of respondents. Other factors include: price point (11%), ease of use (16%), magazine advertisement (5%), and sales presentation (10%).

Screen Shot 4 PM

Physical therapy professionals also detailed where they find information about products and technology for pain management. A majority of respondents (29%) discover new pain management products from print sources, with online sources (28%) and continuing education (25%) being other common means of obtaining new product information. Respondents also got new information from trade shows (10%), with 6% using other nonspecific means for finding out about new products.

Screen Shot 8PM

Respondents were also asked what pain management products and technologies they would use if reimbursement rates were more favorable. Iontophoresis, laser therapy, light therapy, pulse therapy, TENS, and electrical stimulation were among some of the technologies rehabilitation professionals would use with more favorable reimbursement. In addition, taping, dry needling, diathermy, and H-wave were other techniques for pain management that survey respondents would be interested in using in their practice.

The survey asked participants to discuss the types of pain management technologies and products they use that are nonreimbursable. The equipment and products include: hot and cold packs, laser treatments and iontophoresis, light therapy, biofeedback, and different topical agents. Therapeutic taping, synaptic resonance technology, electrical stimulation, massage, and strapping were additional treatments used by clinicians that are nonreimbursable.

For managing pain and pain-related symptoms, a number of products are recommended to clients for at-home use by survey respondents, including electrotherapies such as TENS, MENS, H-wave devices, and electrical stimulation; topicals like Biofreeze and Sore No More; therapeutic taping; hot and cold packs; and exercise and exercise products, such as foam rollers. Positioning pillows, massage, self-trigger point products, compression, postural support braces and systems, splinting, and cryotherapy were additional modalities respondents recommend to patients for in-home use.

Our survey also asked therapists to share their experiences with modalities for pain that may not have performed as they believed they would. Examples of items reported by respondents included aquatic therapy, therapeutic taping, various bracing products, lotions and sprays, and topicals. PTP

Cassandra Perez is associate editor for Physical Therapy Products.