TUESDAY, Feb. 3, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Although the proper exercise can help people deal with and alleviate chronic neck and back pain, a new study shows that health professionals may not be prescribing it as often as they should.
Less than half of the nearly 700 people surveyed -- all of whom had seen a physician, chiropractor or physical therapist in the past year for chronic back or neck pain -- were prescribed exercise, the study found.
The results, based on a telephone survey by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, showed that those who were given instructions to exercise were nearly twice as likely to have received the order from a physical therapist than from a physician or chiropractor. Roughly a third of physical therapists' patients, though, still did not receive an exercise prescription.
Although most of those surveyed said they had seen a physician, their doctors prescribed exercise for just 14 percent of them. However, some people were referred by their doctors to physical therapists, who ultimately prescribed exercise, according to the survey.
Women, people with a higher education level, and those receiving workers compensation were more likely to have been prescribed exercise, the survey found.
"Considering current evidence on the efficacy of exercise, these findings demonstrate that exercise is being underutilized as a treatment for chronic back and neck pain," the authors wrote.
The findings are published in the February issue of Arthritis Care & Research.
The authors suggested that future studies look at barriers to prescriptive exercise.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about preventing back pain.