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A physical therapist educates a patient about the spine.

While physical therapists are known as hands-on, movement specialists, evidence is beginning to suggest their ability to teach can improve outcomes and reduce health care costs as well.

A recent study published in Spine (Preoperative pain neuroscience education for lumbar radiculopathy – Aug. 15, 2014), followed a group of individuals who were undergoing surgery of the lumbar spine. Prior to surgery, half of the participants received the typical presurgical care. The other half received specialized education from a physical therapist on the neuroscience of pain. The researchers followed up with the participants one year after surgery and found the group who received a single, educational session from a physical therapist, viewed their surgical experience much more favorably, and used 45% less health care expenditure following surgery.

What Does This Mean to Me?

Physical therapists are experts in developing strategies to help you better understand and manage pain. Growing research, such as this, is indicating that education, focusing on the reconceptualization of pain, can lead to improved function, range of motion, and decreased pain. As little as one session with a physical therapist, can result in improved long-term outcomes and lower health care expenditure costs.

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