Outcomes Associated with Manual Therapy for Workers with Non-Chronic Low Back Pain

By Dongchun Wang, Kathryn Mueller, Randall Lea, M.D.

September 14, 2021 Related Topics: Medical Costs, Outcomes for Injured Workers, Physical Medicine, Utilization

Manual therapy (MT), a hands-on therapy that improves range of motion and reduces pain, has been commonly used in treating workers with musculoskeletal injuries. However, patterns and outcomes of this type of physical therapy treatment are not well understood. This new study helps to fill information gaps in medical and health care policy research regarding this therapy. It focuses on low back pain (LBP) claims in 28 states that did not have surgery but received MT and other medical services provided by non-chiropractic providers. It compares costs and outcomes between claims with early and late MT and between claims with and without MT. 

The findings are based on our statistical analysis that controls for various factors affecting treatment choice and outcomes. Data used for the analysis capture medical services and benefit payments at 18 months postinjury for workers with LBP who did not have surgery but received MT and other medical services provided by non-chiropractic providers. The 28 study states are Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Outcomes Associated with Manual Therapy for Workers with Non-Chronic Low Back Pain. Dongchun Wang, Kathryn Mueller, and Randy Lea. September 2021. WC-21-23.

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Research Questions:

• How prevalent is MT among workers with low back pain receiving non-chiropractic care? 
• What are the patterns of MT treatment in terms of timing, frequency, duration, and intensity? 
• Does MT make a difference in the costs of treatment and the use of opioids and injections? 
• How do costs and temporary disability duration compare for LBP claims with and without MT?  

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