Back Pain can interfere with one’s daily life and greatly inhibit the quality of that life. There is not much that a person can do without using their back – including bending, sitting, and standing. Finding relief from back pain can be frustrating. Surgery is an expensive risk that few are anxious to take. In addition, nobody has the time to be laid up recovering from surgery. Pain medications often leave one tired and in a fog and this does nothing to get you back to doing the things you need to do and often can lead to more problems down the road.
Physical therapy, however, can often be very helpful without any of the side effects of medication or surgery. Regardless of whether the pain is mostly caused by an acute ligament strain (local) or the type of pain that radiates to one’s extremities (radicular), there are physical therapies designed to help relieve one’s back pain.
Figure Out What You Need
As with anything involving your body and its health, the first thing you should do is speak to your physician. Back pain is common among Americans with over 30 million people experiencing it at any one time.
Failing to properly treat the causes of this pain early however, can lead to more serious treatments – including surgeries – in the future. Thus, it is essential that you receive an accurate diagnosis so that you can treat the proper cause of your pain.
If your doctor believes that physical therapy will help you, he or she will make a referral to a trusted physical therapist. They will then complete their own examination.
Once your physical therapist has evaluated the results of that examination, they will identify the factors that are believed to add up to your unique back pain issue. Since, not all back pain is the same, neither are all treatments. Each treatment should be tailored to the specific patient. A physical therapist can design a treatment plan that is individualized to each patient’s needs.
The Basics of Physical Therapy
Generally speaking, the goals or purpose of physical therapy is to increase function and decrease pain. Good physical therapists also strive to teach a secondary goal to their patients. That is the knowledge to employ a maintenance program which will help to prevent reoccurrences of the pain in the future.
For back pain, a physical therapy program usually contains two major components:
- Active exercises
- Passive therapies
Active exercises are just what they sound like, the physical stretching and movement of one’s body. In this case, the back.
Passive therapies focus on lowering the patient’s pain through modalities. They are considered passive because rather than being done by the patient they are done to the patient. Modalities that may be used include:
- TENS units – A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) unit modulates the sensation of back pain by overriding the signals of pain sent to the brain through the use of electrical stimulation.
- Ultrasound therapy – With this, sound waves are applied into the soft tissue through the skin. This results in a form of deep heating that can help to relieve pain.
- Heat and Ice therapy – Depending on what is causing the pain, either heat or ice may help to reduce it.
- Iontophoresis – This is a method of delivering steroids. The steroid is applied in a gel to the skin and then it is forced into the skin through the application of an electrical current. The helps to produce an anti-inflammatory effect in the area that is causing pain.
Active Physical Therapy
Exercise is an important part of overall health for a variety of reasons. It is also an excellent method of pain relief. There are several different kinds of active exercises used to help treat back pain. They include stretching, strengthening, and aerobic exercises.
Stretching Exercises for back pain
Stretching one’s hamstring is almost universally effective for treating back pain, especially that in the lower back. Further, doing so a couple of times each day has no down side … so why not? Simple stretching of the hamstring takes very little time and can easily become a part of everyone’s day.
Strengthening Exercises for back pain
Core muscle strengthening in important in treating back pain and especially helpful for lower back strain causing pain. Much like the stretching exercises, this can be done in very little time. This is particularly true for dynamic lumbar stabilization exercises that can be done in roughly a quarter of an hour.
These types of exercises should be learned directly from one’s physical therapist. In order to see the benefits available, they must be done correctly and only a qualified health professional can show you how.
Aerobic Conditioning Exercises – Low Impact
For long term pain reduction, these types of exercises are important. Walking, swimming, water therapy, and bicycling are all options available in this category of exercise. Alternate these with strengthening exercises for optimal effect.
Wrapping It Up
Physical therapy has a multitude of benefits for reducing back pain. Probably most importantly because it can help you to avoid medications and surgeries.