Early manual therapy for injured workers with lower back pain is associated with lower utilization of medical services, lower medical and indemnity payments, and shorter disability, according to a study released Tuesday by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute.
Using data from 18 study states, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based institute examined outcomes of manual therapy, which it describes as a type of physical therapy that is “hands-on… to mobilize or manipulate joints and soft tissues with the intent to increase joint range of motion, reduce pain, and eliminate soft tissue swelling and inflammation.”
The average medical cost per claim was $4,192 for lower back pain claims with early manual therapy, 27% lower than that for similar claims with late manual therapy, according to the study.
Researchers also found that workers receiving manual therapy within two weeks of traditional physical therapy needed fewer MRIs, 30.3% versus 43.4%, received fewer opioid prescriptions, 18.6% versus 23.3%, and had less pain-management injections, 12.6% versus 16.5%.
The average indemnity payment per claim was 28% lower when manual therapy was initiated early and the average temporary disability duration per claim was 22% shorter for workers with such early treatment.
This article was first published in Business Insurance.