Musculoskeletal Pain: Early PT Cuts Costs and Reduces Opioid Use

Musculoskeletal (MSK) pain is defined as acute or chronic pain that affects bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and even nerves. The pain associated with musculoskeletal disorders is a common medical and socioeconomic problem worldwide.1 Chronic musculoskeletal pain (in particular, low back pain) is the main contributor to disability worldwide.2

The most prevalent forms of musculoskeletal pain are chronic low back pain, neck pain, and the pain associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, but MSK pain also includes sprained muscles, pain associated with fracture, shoulder pain, and others. Advancing age increases the risk of MSK pain, although it may occur at any age. 

Dr. Larry Benz, DPT, OCS, MBA, Mapp, co-founder and CEO of Confluent Health, and Dr. John Childs, PT, PhD, MBA, FAPTA co-founder of Evidence in Motion, set out in 2018 to study the use of physical therapy with MSK pain. The results were revealed at the American Physical Therapy Association’s Private Practice 2022 Annual Conference in Colorado. The intent was to educate and find the most cost-effective relief for patients with MSK pain.

The study found that seeking physical therapy earlier decreases the likelihood of high-cost imaging and procedures, the use of opioid therapy, and total medical costs. The study also found that opioid therapy and pain medications increased the duration of care.

Learn more:

Results of “Physical Therapy First” Study Revealed on Thursday, Omnichannel Solution Announced. [Internet] Available from:

  1. Smith E, Hoy DG, Cross M, et al. The global burden of other musculoskeletal disorders: estimates from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study. Ann Rheum Dis. 2014; 73:1462–1469. 
  2. Vos T, Abajobir AA, Abate KH, et al. Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 328 diseases and injuries for 195 countries, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Lancet. 2017; 390:1211–1259.
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