Physical Therapy for Back Pain
What is back pain?
Back pain, which can be felt in the upper or lower back, can feel like an acute spasm or a chronic soreness.
Most people experience lower back pain at some point in their lives – whether after lifting heavy objects, being confined to bed rest, or simply performing everyday, normal activities. Back pain can present as chronic low back pain, acute pain or through an underlying cause.
While back pain, especially lower back pain, is common – it’s not inevitable. Some people experience significant pain relief by rotating the use of ice and superficial heat, like a heating pad, or good, old-fashioned rest.
But if your home remedies don’t provide relief or they make the pain worse – don’t worry! Physical therapy can help you with nonsurgical treatments that can help reduce your pain.
You can find a physical therapist for lower back pain who can help you discover core strengthening exercises and develop an exercise program that will relieve pain, increase mobility, and improve the quality of your life.
Back Pain Symptoms
Low back pain varies greatly in severity. Pain may be a dull ache, or it can feel like a sharp spasm or general stiffness. The pain may be felt over the entire back or it may be concentrated in a specific region of your back – such as your upper back, lower back, or around your shoulder blades or neck.
Back pain can feel like:
- acute pain
- muscle stiffness
- dull ache
The duration of the back pain is important, too:
- Acute back pain occurs suddenly, with pain lasting from a few days to a few weeks
- Subacute back pain can happen suddenly or over time, and it can take 1 to 3 months to reduce pain
- Chronic back pain is daily back pain that lasts more than 3 months
What causes back pain?
To understand what causes back pain, it may be helpful to have a crash course on the structure of your back.
The human back is made up of the spine, vertebrae, spinal cord, discs, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. When any of these parts aren’t working properly, the result is back pain.
(A quick note: It’s critical to work with health care professionals and undergo a thorough evaluation before starting any exercise program if you have any back pain prevalence. The exercise program routine that they create will be customized for you and your unique needs to help soothe your back pain.)
Common causes of back pain include:
- injuries – whether from sports, an accident, overuse or improper lifting technique
- herniated disc
- degenerative disc disease (DDD)
- slipped disc (spondylolisthesis)
- narrowing of the spinach canal (spinal stenosis)
- compression fracture due to osteoporosis
- compressed nerves (sciatica, radiculopathy)
- poor posture
- sedentary lifestyle
Physical Therapy for Back Pain
Physical therapy can help you resolve or significantly improve your low back pain. A physical therapist can help you to identify where your pain is coming from, how long it will take to heal, what movements make it worse, and which specific exercises will strengthen your body and help you return to your normal routine.
Is physical therapy necessary for back pain?
Location-specific pain, including pain that’s felt in the back, neck, arms, or hips is associated with short- and long-term health effects, ranging from minor discomfort to musculoskeletal impairment, diminished quality of life, and escalating health care costs, according to the CDC.
So while home remedies may help decrease pain for many people, if you’re still suffering and you are experiencing more pain in your back, you will want to consider seeking support from health care professionals and finding a physical therapist near you to relieve pain.
Can physical therapy get rid of back pain?
While sitting on the couch for long periods of time may be tempting, it could cause even further damage. It may be counter-intuitive, but physical therapy, which includes therapeutic exercises, general movement, can help relieve pain and prevent future occurrences.
How can a physical therapist help?
When it comes to pain in low backs, there are many different kinds.
A physical therapist will perform a thorough evaluation to learn more about your specific condition. They will then work with you to determine the causes of your specific back pain and develop a physical therapy regimen. Your physical therapist will follow clinical practice guidelines, which simply means that many different kinds of therapeutic exercises will be used.
While each exercise routine will be as unique as the patient, physical therapy for back pain generally includes a combination of stretching exercises, spinal manipulation, and aerobic exercises.
What do you do in physical therapy for back pain?
Generally speaking, physical therapy for back pain consists of regular physical therapy visits which may include core strengthening exercises, aerobic exercises, manual therapy, and stretching exercises.
- Core strengthening exercises are critical for patients with back pain, including chronic low back pain, because the core muscles are connected to the lower back muscles. Strengthening your core helps to prevent injury and decrease back pain.
- Aerobic exercises for back pain patients can include riding a stationary bike, walking on a treadmill, bicycling, or participating in water therapy.
- Manual therapy for managing back pain often includes spinal manipulation. Spinal manipulation is a technique in which health care professionals, including physical therapists, apply pressure via a controlled thrust to a joint of your spine to move the joint into a more correct and therefore less painful position.
- Stretching exercises, especially dynamic stretching exercises, can be helpful for relieving chronic low back pain.
Many physical therapy programs include a combination of these to address back pain.
How long does physical therapy for lower back pain take?
In cases where the back pain prevalence is low, most physical therapy regimens take approximately 4 weeks to complete.
Of course, physical therapy is different for each individual so relieving your back pain may take more or less time.
Is it better to go to a chiropractor or a physical therapist for back pain?
Both chiropractic care and physical therapy help people decrease back pain and return to their normal routine.
Chiropractic therapy, which uses joint manipulation and spinal corrections, can be helpful for immediate relief of neck and low back pain.
However, physical therapy provides a more comprehensive approach to pain management. Physical therapists often prescribe specific exercises for their patients to perform daily in order to achieve their rehab goals. Additionally, physical therapy can help provide more long term relief as physical therapists work to prevent future injury and help patients feel more comfortable and confident in living a more active lifestyle.
Because both chiropractors and physical therapists work to help you with pain related issues, it can be confusing to determine where to find the best professional medical advice. Perhaps that’s why many people seek treatment from both physical therapists and chiropractors. If you’re still unsure what’s best for you, this article does a great job in explaining the differences between chiropractic care and physical therapy.
Ready to move beyond your back pain?
Are you looking for a physical therapist near you that can help with your back pain?
If you’re in the East County area of San Diego, Live Life Physiotherapy can help! Live Life Physiotherapy provides customized mobile physical therapy in San Diego to those who need it, where they need it.
Every day, we help residents of La Mesa, El Cajon, Santee, Lakeside, Del Cerro, San Carlos, and the surrounding areas with their physical therapy needs by removing many of the common restrictions and challenges of traditional physical therapy. Our ultimate goal is to help you live your best life.
If you are limited because of back pain and ready to live life on your terms, contact us today!