Health & Wellness

Early Physio May Speed Recovery From Back Pain

The sooner you get physiotherapy for sciatica, the sooner you’re likely to feel better

By Wendy Haaf


If you develop back pain that extends down the buttocks, leg, or both, you should consult a physiotherapist sooner rather than later, recent research suggests.

In a randomized clinical trial conducted by researchers at University of Utah Health, 220 subjects aged 18 to 60 with recent-onset back pain and sciatica were randomly divided into two treatment groups. Half received educational material plus four weeks of active physical therapy; the other half received the same information, but were advised only to remain active.

After the four weeks, and then again at six months and at one year, participants filled out questionnaires used to score pain levels and ability to engage in various activities. At each check-in, subjects in the physical-therapy group reported lower pain intensity and less disability than those in the control group did. At the four-week mark, the difference in mean scores between the therapy and non-therapy groups—eight points on the disability scale—was large enough to have a noticeable effect on everyday life. At the half-year and one-year visits, the point disparities fell just below this level.

The findings were reported in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Photo: iStock/twinsterphoto.