Do you have neck pain?

A recent study found that getting physical therapy within 4 weeks of onset of neck pain leads to increased likelihood of reducing pain and disability (Horn et al., 2016). In rehabilitation literature, clinicians and researchers care about what’s called the Minimal Clinically Important Difference (MCID) for health outcomes. For example, if you tell me that you have neck pain of 10/10 — the worst pain possible — and then tell me that after 4 weeks your pain is 9.8/10, then that is not really a clinically important difference. Another way to talk about the MCID is to say that there is a meaningful change.

The authors of this study found that those who started physical therapy soon after the onset of neck pain were about twice as likely to have a meaningful change in both pain and disability. 

There is now a growing body of research showing that getting physical therapy early and often can reduce your pain and even lower your long-term healthcare costs. John Childs et al. (2015) found that getting physical therapy early for low back pain leads to 60% lower total costs related to low back pain.

If you are in pain, then you might be worried about the immense costs of getting an MRI, going from doctor to doctor, taking more medication, or getting injections. You may want to consider getting physical therapy first. The research supports it.