As much as low back pain plagues a great number of people in our society. Ignoring is not always the most prudent path to take. The irony is the ability to tolerate pain is not always a benefit. I still remember a story of a man in Miami, Florida walking bare feet on a extremely hot deck of his boat. He had no idea he was burning several layers of skin off his feet. He only stopped after hearing his wife scream behind him. Pain is good-sometimes.
We don’t want to make patients hypochondriacs when seeking health care but ignoring significant pain can lead to a
patient not receiving timely and more effective treatment. A few conditions that fall into this category are spine fractures, spinal tumours, breast cancer, etc. As a rule general don’t ignore pain and seek an evaluation. Pain is one of human body’s way of signaling something is wrong. Please don’t self treat via the internet but arm yourself with information when seeing a doctor to ask the right questions and provide a clear history of when you starting having problems.
In the state of New Jersey patients have Direct Access. In most cases, you can seek an examination and treatment by a licensed physical therapist prior to seeing a physician. Insurance is recognizing and covering patients for care received by a physical therapist. At Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation we see a significant number of patients without a prescription. When I first meet a patient we discuss a thorough history of why they are seeking treatment and first decide whether they are appropriate for physical therapy treatment prior to a starting a treatment plan. If certain “red flags” come up while discussing their history I will either refer them to their primary doctor for blood work or an MRI by an orthopedist.
If I have certain concerns that don’t warrant an immediate referral monitor the patient for about two weeks depending on the condition. My general rule of thumb is a patient must show significant signs of improvement during that time. If not I refer out.
For more information on various musculoskeletal problems I often direct people to the consumer section of the American Physical Therapy Associations web site www.apta.org that may help you with.
Tom Willemann, PT, MS, OCS