Physical therapist in the ER decreases pain and increases patient satisfaction
Two years ago, Legacy Emanuel Medical Center piloted a program to place a physical therapist in the emergency room (ER). One of the top visits to the ER is back pain. Back pain can come on suddenly and intensely, sometimes lasting for weeks, months and years. The good news is that about 90 percent of back pain goes away in several weeks with little or no treatment and without medical intervention. Before you make that trip to an emergency room, you can try these:
- Do back relaxation exercises which involve gentle stretching to relax the back muscles and lengthen the spine.
- Use ice which feels good and can reduce swelling.
- Lie down and rest in the fetal position with a pillow to support the legs. Limit the rest to a couple of days.
- Take over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help with discomfort to reduce inflammation, pain or both. Read the labels and follow the directions for dosage and side effects.
When back pain or other muscle problems seem more than a dull or annoying pain, call your primary care doctor. Only you can determine if you need immediate care at an ER (usually when the pain is severe or intense, particularly with other symptoms such as loss of bladder and bowel control or numbness or pain).
The pilot program was a success and Legacy Emanuel now has a physical therapist in the ER full-time, Monday through Friday. “The results of our pilot showed it increased efficiency in the ER and patient satisfaction,” says Physical Therapist April Arthur with Legacy Emanuel’s Rehabilitation Program. “After a conversation with a patient, an ER triage nurse can determine if it’s back pain or other musculoskeletal discomfort and send patients directly to us.”
“Having a PT in the emergency room may decrease a patient’s chance of ending up in the ER again, decrease the need for pain medication and unnecessary x-rays and reduce hospital admissions,” says Linda Stanford, P.T., manager of Legacy Emanuel’s Rehabilitation Program. “We help with the diagnosis and more importantly, help the ER physicians. Click on the video to view April Arthur, P.T., treating a patient in the emergency room. For more information about Legacy Health physical therapy services: Legacyhealth.org.
For more information about the story contact: Vicki Guinn, Legacy Emanuel Public Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, 503-413-2939.
Video: Vicki Guinn