Physical therapists provide a natural option for pain management and more.

by  Brooklynne Propes


In 2013, a study in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery concluded that up to 75 percent of people with a rotator cuff tear were able to rehab their shoulder without surgery. Another staggering statistic says the annual cost of chronic pain is as high as $635 billion a year, which is more than the yearly costs for cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Jennifer Schnieders, of Outbound Physical Therapy & Rehab, is an expert of the physical and mental benefits of physical therapy. Whether you’re injured or attempting to prevent future injuries, Schnieders believes that physical therapy can be very beneficial to people’s health and wallets. “Physical therapy can really touch the lifespan of a person,” she says.

Outbound Physical Therapy & Rehab, located at 1739 Elm Ct. Ste. 205/206, is committed to helping patients learn to manage their pain and symptoms independently through exercise and modalities while encouraging ongoing physical activity to prevent illness and injury and promote overall health and mobility.

Physical therapy can be practiced in many different settings, including pediatrics, geriatrics, acute care, home health, orthopedics, and sports medicine. Some therapists also choose to specialize in the treatment of lymphedema and oncology care, vestibular problems, women’s health, and Parkinson’s disease.

“There are so many different niches that a physical therapist can fit into, and they really should be part of every person’s progression through the lifespan,” Schnieders says. “Physical therapy shouldn’t just be available when you hurt yourself, but also to help prevent injuries from occurring.”

Recently, an opioid epidemic has been receiving more attention from physical therapists. Since 1999, there has been a 300 percent increase in the sales of opioid prescriptions — without an overall change in reported pain. People who are prescribed opioids for long periods of time are more likely to become heroin users. For people in chronic pain, physical therapy is an alternative pain management option to avoid the risks of opioid painkillers.

“Prescription painkillers don’t really solve the problem, they just mask the pain,” says Schnieders. “There is definitely a time and place for the appropriate use of narcotic pain management, but our government is telling us, as a whole, they’re being over-utilized and aren’t solving the problems.”

Currently, patients have to get a doctor’s prescription to go to a physical therapist, and therefore this option isn’t well-advertised until after and injury or illness occurs. “That’s changing in a lot of states,” Schnieders says. “Many are moving toward direct access, and in Missouri we have a limited form of direct access, which a lot of people don’t know about.”

While physical therapy provided to Medicare beneficiaries is regulated federally, each state individually regulates the reimbursement of commercial insurers and how therapists practice in their state. In Missouri, patients can be evaluated without a physician’s prescription only if they have been referred to PT within the past year for the same problem.

“So let’s say you have back pain that flares up periodically, and you had been seen by a doctor for the back pain before and it was diagnosed.” Schnieders says. “Then you can go see the physical therapist. The therapist then has to contact a doctor after two weeks to get authorization to continue treatment if improvement has not yet been seen. It’s a little tricky in Missouri.”

Outbound Physical Therapy & Rehab treats hundreds of patients each year and is committed to educating the entire community about treatment options for injury recovery, slowing disease progression, and pain management.

“October is National Physical Therapy Month, which works out really well because this year our campaign centered around choosing physical therapy before more expensive alternatives,” Schnieders says.

Physical therapy as a whole is moving toward preventative and care and wellness. Make sure to ask your doctor about your pain management options to see if physical therapy is a good option for you.

Jennifer Schnieders, DPT 

Jennifer grew up in Jefferson City, where she graduated from Helias High School. She received her Bachelor of Science in Exercise, Master of Physical Therapy, and Doctor of Physical Therapy from Saint Louis University. While working in other outpatient clinics, Jennifer obtained multiple ergonomics and work-injury prevention certifications with extensive experience with pre-employment screening, onsite job analysis, and return-to-work therapy programs. Jennifer is an active member of the American Physical Therapy Association and Missouri Physical Therapy Association, where she is the chair of the Central District and member of the MPTA Board of Directors.