When your back hurts, it may seem like you need to avoid movement. In fact, the opposite is true. You often can benefit from some rest initially. But extended bed rest can actually interfere with full and complete recovery. More movement is necessary for you to get back to your lifestyle and your routines, which helps stave off depression. More movement is needed to keep all of your muscular and nervous systems at optimum functioning. Extended sedentary time will take its toll on your back and on your circulatory, digestive and nervous systems. So, the key is to find ways to move while minimizing pain and helping with your recovery.
That’s where physical therapy helps.
Physical Therapy Goals: Physical therapy should help restore joint movement, increase flexibility, decrease pain and teach you how to move in ways that minimize back pain. In addition, you should learn exercises that you can do in our office and at home that will help you with stability and increased strength as well as endurance. Your physical therapist can help evaluate the effectiveness of therapy as you are making visits and adjust your program, even watching you do exercises to make sure you are getting the most out of what you put into your own treatment.
Physical therapy is most effective with motivated patients who are willing to keep up with assigned therapy both at home and in the office. Physical therapy is often accompanied by other treatments like doctor visits, medication, chiropractic care and psychological counseling.
Physical Therapy Treatments include services that are both passive (treatments that are administered to you) and active (therapy that you have to participate in like exercise and stretching):
- Exercise instruction, whether weight bearing or light cardiovascular exercise, provides an individualized plan for rehabilitation and restoration of function as well as instruction on avoiding postures that cause further back pain. For back pain, exercises that emphasize increasing core strength are the most important to aid in your recovery. Examples of these exercises include crunches, leg raises, usage of abdominal machines, as well as modified hyperextensions like back bows and cobra stretching.
- Coaching on ways to prevent further pain. Your physical therapist will help you come up with ways to modify your movements now to accommodate for pain and inflexibility, so that you can lift, bend, transfer from sitting to standing and do other daily life activities without risking re-injuring your back.
- Heat and Cold Therapy can alleviate swelling and remediate acute pain and can be part of a first response to pain.
- K-Laser (cold laser) therapy is useful for increasing blood flow and loosening tight muscles.
- Massage applies gentle or firm pressure to sore areas, restoring flexibility and increasing blood flow to affected areas. Many back pain patients find massage to be both relaxing, so it combines a physical therapy treatment with psychological relief, too.
- Manipulation of joints and bones can loosen tight tissues surrounding joints and reduce pain, in addition to improving flexibility.
- Stretching exercise demonstration and instruction utilizing bands, machines, and just your body to increase flexibility and decrease pain is one of the most effective components of physical therapy.
- TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) increases blood flow to painful areas and short circuits pain transmission. Many back pain patients derive relief from it.
- Ultrasound therapy techniques may be effective in reducing pain and muscle tension.