Research: The clinical impact of pain neuroscience continuing education on physical therapy outcomes for patients with low back and neck pain • Posts by EIM | Evidence In Motion Skip To Content

Research: The clinical impact of pain neuroscience continuing education on physical therapy outcomes for patients with low back and neck pain

May 13, 2022 • Fellowship • Adriaan Louw, Kory Zimney, Terry Cox

The EIM pain team is publishing again! This study looks at the clinical impact of pain neuroscience continuing education on physical therapy outcomes for patients with low back and neck pain. 

Abstract
Objectives: Research suggests that attendance by physical therapists at continuing education (CE) targeting the management of low back pain (LBP) and neck pain does not result in positive impacts on clinical outcomes. The aim of this study was to determine if therapists attending a self-paced 3-hour online Pain Neuroscience Education (PNE) program was associated with any observed changes to patient outcomes and also clinical practice.

Methods: Participants were 25 different physical therapists who treated 3,705 patients with low back pain (LBP) or neck pain before and after they had completed an online PNE CE course. Change in outcomes measures of pain and disability at discharge were compared for the patients treated before and after the therapist training. Clinical practice patterns of the therapists, including total treatment visits, duration of care, total units billed, average units billed per visit, percentage of ‘active’ billing units and percentage of ‘active and manual’ billing units, were also compared for the patient care episodes before and after the therapist training.

Results: There was no significant difference for change in pain scores at discharge for patients treated after therapist CE training compared to those treated before regardless of the condition (LBP or neck pain). However, patients with LBP who were treated after therapist CE training did report greater improvement in their disability scores. Also after CE training, for each episode of care, therapists tended to use less total visits, billed fewer units per visit, and billed a greater percentage of more ‘active’ and ‘active and manual’ billing units.

Discussion: Attending an online 3-hour CE course on PNE resulted in improved disability scores for patients with LBP, but not for those with neck pain. Changes in clinical behavior by the therapists included using less visits, billing fewer total units, and shifting to more active and manual therapy interventions. Further prospective studies with control groups should investigate the effect of therapist CE on patient outcomes and clinical practice

Citation: Louw A, Puentedura EJ, Denninger TR, Lutz AD, Cox T, Zimney K, et al. (2022) The clinical impact of pain neuroscience continuing education on physical therapy outcomes for patients with low back and neck pain. PLoS ONE 17(4): e0267157. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0267157

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Adriaan Louw

Adriaan earned both an undergraduate as well as a master’s degree in physiotherapy from the University of Stellenbosch in Cape Town, South Africa. He is an adjunct faculty member at St. Ambrose University, South College and the University of Nevada Las Vegas, teaching pain science. Adriaan has taught throughout the US and internationally for 20...

Kory Zimney

Kory received a Masters in Physical Therapy from the University of North Dakota in 1994.  He completed his transitional DPT from Des Moines University in 2010 and is currently enrolled and in the candidacy phase of the PhD PT program with Nova Southeastern University. His dissertation is focusing on the construct of trust as part...

Terry Cox

Terry initially earned his Bachelor’s in Education, prior to completing his Bachelor’s in Physical Therapy in 1987. He continues to combine his two passions by actively pursuing opportunities to teach and mentor the next generation of clinicians. Current Roles: Faculty, Southwest Baptist University Faculty, EIM Research: Treatment of Patients with Degenerative Cervical Radiculopathy Using a...

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