Physical therapy is a type of treatment focused on exercises and movements to help regain control of the muscles and joints.
To get started, the origin of the pain and damage are examined and evaluated. A treatment plan to correct and repair the damaged muscles and joints is then devised and implemented. Both passive and active physical therapy treatments are utilized to make the basic physical requirements of living easier, less painful and more manageable.
Passive physical therapy activities may include massage, heat and ice treatments. Active physical therapy activities may include weight lifting, stretching and walking. The goal of these exercises is to increase and improve strength, endurance, flexibility and coordination that will also help to minimize pain. Education on proper use of body mechanics is also provided to accelerate healing and prevent further injury.
How Can Physical Therapy Help With Back Pain?
Physical therapy can help with painful spinal conditions. These problems may include muscle strains and sprains, whiplash, sciatica, herniated inter-vertebral discs, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis. Back pain caused by these conditions can be alleviated and even healed if physical therapy is initiated shortly after the onset of symptoms.
The sooner physical therapy is started, the quicker the spine and affected areas will recover. Waiting too long before initiating physical therapy can cause back pain and damage to spread further to other surrounding structures. In such cases, more time and intensive treatment is often required and the final results may not be as optimal.
What Does Physical Therapy for Back Pain Involve?
Physical therapy for back pain is concentrated largely on strengthening the muscles, tendons, ligaments and other structures that surround and support the spinal column. Passive techniques are performed initially to help reduce swelling and inflammation of the affected areas.
For upper-back conditions, gentle stretching and range of motion exercises are initiated. These exercises must be started gently and gradually to avoid exacerbating the pain and damage to the fragile and sensitive cervical spine and neck region.
As the neck, shoulder and upper back muscles are strengthened, flexibility and endurance will improve. As the pain diminishes, more active stretching and range of motion exercises can be introduced.
For lower back problems, isolated muscle contraction exercises are introduced once swelling and inflammation is controlled. Focus is centered on the deeper abdominal and back muscles that surround the spine. Strengthening these muscles will give the lower-back area greater support and stability. Pain will be reduced and flexibility and mobility will improve.
Maintaining good posture is crucial for any spinal physical therapy program to be most effective and for preventing recurrence of pain and damage afterwards. Good posture ensures that the spine is always properly aligned and that fatigue, stress, strain and pain are prevented.
Combining physical therapy, anti-inflammatory pain medications and treatments and chiropractic therapy can result in easier and faster resolution of back pain causes and symptoms.
If you begin to experience back pain, consult your physician or medical provider as soon as possible to determine the best treatment options.