Rest, medication, and surgery aren’t the only ways to decrease back pain. In fact, more spine specialists than ever are prescribing physical therapy for their patients as a first line treatment. If you’re in pain and are interested in physical therapy, here’s everything you need to know:
The Goals of Physical Therapy
A physical therapy program for back pain seeks to accomplish three goals:
- Decrease pain
- Improve function
- Increase patient knowledge and awareness
- Promote strength and endurance of the back muscles
A Physical Therapist will create and implement a comprehensive plan that includes a variety of passive treatments and active exercises.
Passive Treatment Modalities
Passive physical therapy refers to treatment that’s done to the patient. The most common passive treatment modalities for back pain are:
- Heat Therapy. Heating pads relax the back muscles, ligaments, and tendons. This decreases the frequency and severity of pain-producing muscle spasms.
- Cold Therapy. Ice packs are placed directly on painful areas to decrease pain and inflammation.
- A nerve stimulator unit helps decrease pain by blocking pain signals sent to the brain.
- Ultrasound therapy. An ultrasound machine sends pain relieving sound waves deep into soft tissues and muscles.
Depending on the Physical Therapist, numerous other modalities can be used. A new and popular one is dry needling.
Active exercises are divided into two categories:
- Stretching exercises. When the lower back, abdomen, and hamstring muscles are properly stretched, patients see a decrease in pain due to an increase in flexibility and mobility. Doing simple movements becomes easier and less painful.
- Strengthening exercises. Improving lower back, pelvic and core strength decreases pain by improving stability and posture. This serves to create a natural “brace” for your back.
In some situations, a Physical Therapist might use low impact aerobic activity as an active exercise. This type of activity has the added benefit of helping overweight patients lose fat and increase muscle mass.
If you’re in pain and want to know if physical therapy can improve your condition, please contact our offices to arrange an appointment with one of our specialists. Once your condition is accurately diagnosed, a treatment plan that is right for you will be prescribed. Physical therapy will be a part of the plan if it can help your condition. You can expect pain relief when you choose our practice.