Some Americans Pay More for Back Pain Relief, But Are They Really Getting Less?

Payless recently conducted a very telling social experiment. You probably heard about the shoe chain’s stunt in the news but just to recap quickly, “The Payless Experiment” tricked consumers into buying their typically budget-friendly shoes at sky-high markups. To carry out the clever ruse, the discount retailer invited style influencers to a (fake) launch party for a new high-end label in one of Los Angeles’ glitziest shopping areas. The attendees believed that they were buying fashionable, high-quality footwear and therefore didn’t object to the three-figure price tags.

Aside from being a brilliant marketing ploy for Payless, what lessons does “The Payless Experiment” have for our current healthcare system, and specifically for patients suffering from low back pain? The experiment is a commentary on perceived vs. real value but also how easily people can be swayed into believing that something is reliable as presented. Think about someone who has had weeks of pain and dysfunction stemming from low back pain: she wants to find a solution that will relieve her symptoms. If a physician presents surgery as the best option—and she’s assured that her pain will go away—then it’s going to sound appealing, right?

Today’s consumer has so many choices when shopping for just about anything from apparel to healthcare. But while it’s customary to shop for the best price for a goose down jacket (without sacrificing quality), shopping around for the best solution (and value) for our ailments is less typical. Doing our due diligence in healthcare may ultimately bring us back to the first proposed solution, but it also may introduce us to solutions that we didn’t know existed.

In the case of low back pain, one such under-heralded solution is physical therapy. Physical therapy, yoga and acupuncture are gaining in popularity as equally (or more) effective and less costly than surgical procedures, injections, MRIs and pain relievers—and for good reason.

Physical therapists are trained to restore and improve patients’ mobility, reduce soft tissue pain, improve function and build muscle strength. They not only develop custom strategies to treat persistent or recurrent low back pain, but educate patients on the prevention of future issues. Some preventive techniques include adopting and following a regular exercise program and learning to lift correctly by keeping the object close to the body.

As the holidays kick into high gear, you likely have a long list of gifts to buy. I’m willing to guess that you have a strategy in place for selecting appropriate gifts for each recipient.

As you match the right price point, size and color to each person on your list this holiday season, think about approaching your healthcare needs with the same level of scrutiny. After all, finding the right solution at the right price for our health needs contributes to improved long-term outcomes and better piece of mind.

Annual Physical Therapy Check-Up!

In my early 20’s, I lived in Argentina for 2 years. During that time it never occurred to me that I should be seeing a dentist on a regular basis. Growing up my mom would set up my regular dental exams, and I would show up to the dentist office every 6 months. However, after living in Argentina and then on my own through the early part of college, I had definitely fallen out of the habit of attending regular dental exams. I had 8 cavities filled over a 4 week period. Needless to say, I never missed another dental check-up!

The practice of meeting with a trained expert is important in order to learn what we should be doing to keep our bodies in optimal condition! For the most part it has become common practice to see the dentist every 6 months, and to have a physical with a doctor every year. However, most people are not going to see their physical therapist for annual or semi-annual check-ups.

It is often understated how important a physical therapist can be in finding deficiencies in movement, strength, cardiovascular capacity or range of motion that can become detrimental in the future. Physical therapists are experts in movement! That is what they are trained to be. Whether it be identifying compensations or overcoming current limitations, a physical therapist can play a valuable role in keeping you healthy and well.

This is a really common story that I hear in my practice, “Well, my shoulder pain started about 4 years ago while I was doing some over head activities, and I felt a pop in the shoulder. It has been hurting on and off since then. I haven’t done anything besides take advil every now and then, but now I can’t sleep on that side. So, I figured I should finally do something about it.”

I love seeing people with any number of problems going on. It is really fun to diagnose their situation and get them on a path to meet their goals. However, I think about those times when the patient spent nights where they maybe only slept 1-2 hours or days when they missed work all because of their aches and pains in the shoulder.

I think about how that situation would have been different had that person seen their physical therapist every year for a check-up. Maybe it is not something that the patient would go out of their way to seek care for initially, because it is not interfering too much in their life at the start. However, it could be something mentioned and evaluated in an annual check-up. Then that person could be helped to get on an exercise regimen that could help their shoulder or other condition before it evolves into something more complex. That is the value in checking in regularly with your physical therapist.

As the saying goes “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When it comes to my teeth I know better than to skip out on my regular teeth cleaning and exam. When it comes to my physical health I know better than to miss out on a chance to be screened, and make sure that I am on the right track to a healthy life.

In the state of Minnesota anyone can see a physical therapist directly without a physician referral. If you would like to schedule an annual check-up with a physical therapist, please click here.

Who Is Your Physical Therapist?