Can Physical Therapy Decrease Unnecessary Imaging and Procedures?

By Ben Wobker, PT, MSPT, CSCS, SFMAc

One of the greatest costs to the medical systems is imaging. As physical therapists we have seen the past 20 years increase dramatically the use of MRI, CT scans and overall diagnostics tests. Many of the motives behind testing is well placed, but what we have found is that it created many unintended consequences including:

    • Reliance on imaging

    • Excessive injections and procedures

    • Perseveration of result findings

    • Learned helplessness.


Physical therapy or advanced imaging as first management strategy following a new consultation for low back pain in primary care: associations with future health care utilization and charges

*Patients with MRI first, n=385

*Patients with PT first, n=377 

“The imaging continues to get more advanced, precise, and costly. Unfortunately much of what is learned can be found through a great history, physical evaluation, and close observation of progress or lack thereof in their rehab program.”