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Why You Should Choose PT First for Neck Pain

Why You Should Choose PT First for Neck Pain

by Andrew C. Thomas PT, DPT, OCS, TPS, CSCS, COMT, CEEAA, FAAOMPT2 Comments

Neck pain is a common cause of pain and lost work time in the United States and is one of the most common reasons that patients seek healthcare, with the majority of patients choosing to visit their primary care physicians first. Primary care providers may prescribe medication, imaging, and specialist referral. Once the patient sees the specialist, they may be referred to physical therapy. However, current evidence shows that early access to physical therapy, particularly via direct access (direct access to physical therapy, without the need for a referral or prescription from your physician), has been shown to decrease healthcare costs overall and improve outcomes.

Why choose Physical therapy first?

Physical therapy has been a proven treatment for patients to recover from neck pain. Research has demonstrated that the earlier a patient gets in to see a physical therapist, the better the outcome. In fact, one study revealed that going to see a physical therapist within 15 days of onset of pain helps save patients on average $1063 in healthcare costs4. Also, patients who seek PT more than 90 days following neck pain will spend an average of $2,172 more than those who sought PT early4. Much of the increased costs were unnecessary testing, opioid prescriptions, and unnecessary treatments4. This demonstrates that the earlier you seek out physical therapy, you are more likely to save money and not undergo unnecessary treatments or testing.

What happens when I go to physical therapy for my neck pain?

The first step is making the call to see a physical therapist. In most cases, we can get you in to see us within 48 hours of your initial call to get you started on the road to recovery sooner. Physical therapists are movement system experts, and we will begin by taking time with you to understand your condition, your pain experience, and how it impacts your life. After going through this, we will examine how you move, test your strength, assess how your joints move, and examine how the tissue of your neck feels. We will then help figure out what impairments we find as impairments correlate to symptoms much stronger than imaging. With this information, we will work with you, the patient, to figure out your goals and establish a plan together to get you back to doing what you want to do. The benefit of physical therapy is that you get to spend time with your therapist to get a plan to feel better faster.

Want to know more about how imaging correlates to neck pain? Check out this blog.

Do you have pain related to your neck?

Athletico has clinicians who specialize in the treatment of the spine and have undergone training to facilitate better results! Call your local Athletico and schedule an initial evaluation of free assessment with a physical therapist first to get feeling better faster! Ask for a spine specialist!

Request a Free Assessment

*Per federal guidelines, beneficiaries of plans such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, VHA and other federally funded plans are not eligible for free assessments.

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. Cohen SP. Epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment of neck pain. Mayo Clin Proc. 2015;90(2):284–99.
2. Horn ME, Brennan GP, George SZ, Harman JS, Bishop MD. Description of Common Clinical Presentations and Associated Short-Term Physical Therapy Clinical Outcomes in Patients With Neck Pain. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2015; 96(10):1756 –62. 18.
3. Denninger TR, et al. The influence of patient choice of first provider on costs and outcomes: analysis from a physical therapy patient registry. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2018;48(2):63 –71.
4. 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 Nov 26;18(1):887. doi: 10.1186/s12913-018-3699-0. PMID: 30477480; PMCID: PMC6258489.

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Andrew Thomas was a physical therapist at Athletico Physical Therapy at the time of this blog.


  1. Athletico

    Providing affordable, exceptional care that improves your health and well-being is our top priority. We accept all major insurance plans and we verify coverage with your insurance carrier before treatment. If you have questions about your insurance coverage, call our friendly Billing Center representatives at 630-575-6250 to help.

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