The Unused Benefits of Physical Therapy

Physical therapy probably doesn’t sound like the most enjoyable sort of activity. Despite this, millions of Americans have benefited from physical rehabilitation. According to a recent report, a far larger number of people could have – but didn’t – benefit from this type of treatment.

Published in The Lancet, this report based its findings on data from the Global Burden of Disease Study. Thanks to this source, the study authors could review the effects of 354 diseases across the world. In addition, this global study provided details regarding approximately 3,500 consequences related to these conditions. The key data from this source included years of life lived with disability (YLD), along with information from specific countries, regions and demographics.

Upon reviewing the report’s facts and figures, the authors reached a stunning conclusion – in 2019, over 2.4 billion people worldwide “had conditions that would benefit at some point during the course of the disease from rehabilitation services.” To put these findings in perspective, consider that in 1990 this number stood at 1.48 billion. Furthermore, the research team estimated that total years lived with disability has skyrocketed since 1990, increasing over 60 percent to 310 million.  Highlights from the study are shown below:

  • The most common type of ailment identified were musculoskeletal disorders, specifically low back pain (LBP). In 2019, some 568 million people dealt with some degree of pain in their lower backs, equating to a YLD total of 64 million. Lower back pain was found to be so common that, out of 204 countries reviewed, 134 had this condition as the top problem in need of rehab treatment.
  • After LBP, the second condition in need of rehabilitation was sensory impairment, or vision/hearing loss. An estimated 677 million fell into this category.
  • At 255 million, neurological disorders held the number three position.
  • The region of the world in most dire need of rehabilitation was the Western Pacific (610 million people who failed to receive proper treatment). Followed by Southeast Asia (593 million), high-income countries (530 million), Europe (373 million) and the Americas (310 million). The region with the lowest number of such conditions was the Eastern Mediterranean at 182 million.

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