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A physical therapist educates a patient about the spine.

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

A study published in Spine (Preoperative pain neuroscience education for lumbar radiculopathy – Aug. 15, 2014), followed a group of people who were to have surgery of the lumbar spine. Prior to surgery, half of the participants received the typical care. The other half received specialized education from a physical therapist on the neuroscience of pain. Researchers followed up with the participants one year after surgery. They found that the group who received a single, educational session from a physical therapist, viewed their surgical experience much more favorably. They also used 45% less health care dollars after 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, indicates that education, focusing on reconceptualizing 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 costs.

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