On Friday, October 25, 2019, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists released an official statement opposing the use of “degenerative disc disease” as a diagnostic term for cause of neck and back pain. The organization made this announcement during its annual conference in Orlando, FL.
According to the official statement, “AAOMPT says patients often react to the label ‘degenerative disc disease’ by losing hope and seeking more invasive and higher-risk treatments. They avoid beneficial physical activity for fear that exercise, and movement will worsen their condition, possibly leading to chronic pain. Most spinal pain is self-limiting and can be managed appropriately without the need for medications or risky procedures such as injections or surgery.”
The organization is recommending nonpharmaceutical and noninvasive treatments, including physical therapy as the first line of care for patients experiencing spinal pain and urging clinicians to avoid the “degenerative disc disease” diagnosis to prevent patient exposure to opioids.
“Established in 1991 and headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists is a national organization representing more than 3,000 physical therapists. AAOMPT’s membership comprises leading researchers, academicians and clinicians in the field of spinal and musculoskeletal care,” according to the AAOMPT website.
The founder of USAHS, Dr. Stanley V. Paris, was one of the Founding Fellows of the AAOMPT, dedicating hundreds of hours of time to move the organization forward. AAOMPT has played an integral role in the evolution of the University and many faculty and alumni are fellows and members.
Program Director of the Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at USAHS, Dr. Elaine Lonnemann, is the President of AAOMPT. She is quoted in the release explaining, “These changes are a normal process of aging and not linked to a disease. The use of the term ‘disease’ to diagnose these changes misinforms patients and may lead to unnecessary treatment,” Dr. Lonnemann said. “We believe that this term does more harm than good.”