Life gets busy. Long days at work, plans with friends on the weekends, taking the kids to their activities. It can be easy to put care for oneself on the back burner and not take time for you. One thing you should never put off, however, is physical care for yourself. Whether you have nagging lower back pain or a shoulder ache you thought would resolve on its own, or maybe a stiff neck that appeared one morning when you woke up, it’s important to address the pain or injury. Fortunately, physical therapy can help manage all of these ailments and more. It’s time to make time for you, be proactive about your health, and seek physical therapy care sooner rather than later.
Delaying medical care or physical therapy care because an ailment “doesn’t hurt that bad” or because “I can put up with it” may seem like a reasonable thought process. But are there benefits to seeking care sooner rather than later? The answer is yes. Early access to physical therapy can reduce the overall cost of physical therapy, total health care costs, number of physical therapy sessions, more significant reduction in pain, and increased level of function.1 What’s not to like about all of those benefits? Let’s dive a little deeper into a few of the perks of early physical therapy access.
We live in a world where people seek quality services that are both accessible and affordable. Individuals seek an optimal result or outcome that occurs as quickly as possible – this pertains to healthcare and other businesses, industries, and services. Early access to physical therapy can result in fewer overall sessions needed to achieve your goals and prior level of function. Not only does this mean you have the opportunity to reach your goals faster, but this also means you have the opportunity to start noticing improvement sooner. Delaying physical therapy care may result in an increased number of sessions needed and an increase overall timeline to achieve goals and return to a prior level of function.
There is a direct correlation between the number of physical therapy sessions needed and the cost associated with those sessions. Plain and simple, fewer physical therapy sessions lead to lower physical therapy costs. Ten visits at a given monetary rate will cost less than twenty visits at that same monetary rate. Cost savings is yet another perk to physical therapy access sooner rather than later. Money saved on physical therapy could then be put towards the hobbies you enjoy, a trip you’ve meant to take, or on activities with your loved ones.
Another benefit to starting physical therapy sooner is lower medical costs, i.e., injections, imaging, and opioids. A study performed in 2018 considered individuals with neck pain and associated additional medical expenses. The study found those who delayed initiation of physical therapy greater than 90 days from the start of their pain incurred on average an additional $2,172 of medical expenses in the next twelve months.2 Saving money in many avenues of your healthcare journey can be achieved with early physical therapy initiation.
Reduction in pain and improvement in function are two pillars of physical therapy intervention. Early access to physical therapy can help to optimize both pain reduction and function improvement. That means starting physical therapy sooner rather than later can cause a greater reduction in pain and a larger improvement in function over a shorter period. Delaying the start of physical therapy may lengthen the time needed to reduce pain and the time required to improve the overall functional level.
There are many perks to starting a physical therapy plan of care sooner rather than later. Fewer sessions, lower costs, and shorter time to improve all seem like great reasons to start physical therapy now instead of four months from now. There are some instances your physician may delay physical therapy care due to a surgical procedure, so be sure to follow their guidelines in those circumstances. However, if there is no reason to delay, why not start today? Visit an Athletico near you where one of our talented rehabilitation professionals can help you get back on the path to recovery and living your life. Request a free assessment today. Free assessments are available in-clinic and virtually through our Telehealth platform.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.
1. Sandra Hon, MS, PT, DPT, Richard Ritter, PT, MA, DPT, Diane D Allen, PT, PhD, Cost-Effectiveness and Outcomes of Direct Access to Physical Therapy for Musculoskeletal Disorders Compared to Physician-First Access in the United States: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, Physical Therapy, Volume 101, Issue 1, January 2021, pzaa201, https://doi.org/10.1093/ptj/pzaa201
2. Horn ME, Fritz JM. Timing of physical therapy consultation on 1-year healthcare utilization and costs in patients seeking care for neck pain: a retrospective cohort. BMC Health Serv Res. 2018;18(1):887. Published 2018 Nov 26. doi:10.1186/s12913-018-3699-0