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The Spooks of Back Pain

Sara Shupe, MSPT, Dip. MDT is a physical therapist specialist and founder of J.O.Y. Physical Therapy Inc, a mobile and tele-health physical therapy provider servicing the Twin Cities Metro Area, greater Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Sara has presented early access models of mechanical diagnosis and therapy (MDT) in the treatment of low back pain to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) of MN, National Association of Spine Society (NASS) in San Diego and Utah, and The international MDT Conference in Miami, FL. Sara lives in Eagan, MN with her 14 year-old son and Dachshund Mix Puppy. 

 Tis the season of spookiness. There are haunted houses speckling the countryside of MN and WI with fun things like hay rides, apples, pumpkins, the beautiful fall foliage and treats. And then the not-so-fun (in my professional opinion of course!) things like losing bladder control at the haunted house or awakening at night from scenes from the Halloween movie. 

There are seemingly spooky things we hear about back pain that can unsettle the mind. Words like "sciatica" can strike fear into the soul of those who google it. The word “degeneration” puts visions of a crumbling spine in our minds (or if you had an Aunt Emma like I did who was curled up). Especially if you are unfortunate to land on some web pages that would more accurately be called "I-think-I-have-cancer.com." 


MRI use increases every year. The reports they generate often include words like "herniation" and “degeneration" when it describes your back. At the AAOMPT conference this week, the word “degeneration” was encouraged to be stricken from the record due to the fear it produces. For this reason, as well as the lack of validity it has since MRIs describe "abnormalities" 40-60% of the time in people without pain. If you are blessed to have more white hair than I, that number jumps to 100%! Most practitioners have concluded that MRIs have done more harm than good in understanding what to do about the mind-body problem of back pain (Chou et al, The Lancet 2009, J. Miller et al 2017).

What does it all mean?

At J.O.Y. Physical Therapy Inc., we utilize a method called Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT). In addition, we can understand how hopeless or fearful your may feel about your back pain by the score of your standardized measure called FABQ. Using MDT and FABQ to guide us, we can show you how you can move and position in a safe way. This will reduce your fear; and return your sense of control. Using these fear-debunking techniques, you should concurrently minimize and resolve your back pain over the period of time you are treating with us.

The opposite of the spookiness of Halloween - This is Good News!

Do not fear, MDT is here!!

We’ve experienced the power of the mind on back pain and have added these processes for our patients to get back in the game-

  • Our patients average 4 visits for low back pain resolution vs 12-16 visits that are standard in USA physical therapy clinics

  • Improved patients’ function long term (we measure our patients at 6 month and 12 month follow up)

  • Reduced the likelihood for expensive and often unnecessary doctor visits, MRIs, injections, etc.

Come and experience the mind-back experience at www.joy-pt.com or call 651-800-MYPT 

Not in MN or WI? Go to www.mckenzieinstituteusa.org to find a MDT Provider near you.

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