Physical Therapy was the subject of a recent Dr. Oz show featuring cutting-edge treatments for low back pain. Some of the “cutting edge treatments” were ultrasound, bumpy balls, and tiger balm. Really!? I have several problems with these being considered cutting-edge treatments not the least of all is that they are rarely called for. Ultrasound could be used sparingly, but is not effective for most conditions. Tiger balm is merely a distraction. Bumpy balls, I had never even heard of before, but seem like a gimmick to help you do core strengthening. I take the message from this show is that Physical Therapy consists of ultrasound, smelly stuff, and other junk treatments. That’s not what Physical Therapy is and if your physical therapy mainly consists of these things then you need another Physical Therapist. Oh, and don’t listen to Dr. Oz’s advice on rehab because Dr. Oz doesn’t know jack about rehab.
Physical Therapy should consist of education, manual therapy, and exercise. Occasionally a modality will be used for the right patient. Education helps a patient understand what is going on, why they are having pain, answer any questions, develop a plan of care, and has been shown do decrease fear avoidance behaviors and even pain! The goal of manual therapy is to correct mechanical dysfunctions, decrease pain sensitivity, and restore function. The ultimate goal of exercise is to help you take care of yourself. Exercise helps to decrease pain, increase strength/endurance, and return you to your goals.
On the Dr. Oz website he lists Physical Therapy as his number one choice for low back pain so what gives? I suspect that he manipulated the content to get a quick interesting segment for his show. Either that or Dr. Oz doesn’t know jack about rehab and is ignorant of what PT is, and has just witnessed the results. If we focused on the “cutting-edge” treatments featured on his show we wouldn’t get the results to be his number one choice. I hope that the public recognizes this was not representative of our profession, but also hope that they realize that we really are the number one choice for back pain.
While there may be PT’s out there focusing on the “cutting-edge” treatments above, I can assure you they are not getting the best results possible. The combination of manual therapy and exercise has been proven to be the most effective for the majority of conditions. As a patient, you deserve the best care possible. Ask your therapist about their plan of care and why that is appropriate for your condition to make sure you are getting the care you deserve.
Jamie Bovay, DPT, CSCS