I had two bouts of low back pain last year. I saw two different physical therapists at the same clinic. The treatment program was different each time. They both seemed to do the same kind of exam. Why the difference?

Physical therapists (PTs) are studying ways to examine low back pain patients that will guide treatment. The idea is that patients with specific groups of signs and symptoms have better results when treatment is based on exam results.

So if two PTs do the same exam but get different results, then your treatment might be different too. The most popular method used today puts patients in one of three classification groups based on the exam findings. Some patients get better results with manipulation treatment. Others need a program to stabilize the spine. A third option is specific exercise.

This method of classifying or grouping patients was started as a result of ongoing studies. The classification system is both reliable and effective. Reliable means it can be used with the same results each time tested. Effective means it works!