Back pain is one of the most common physical complaints in the United States. Back pain is usually caused by injury, and sometimes of disease or structural issues. Injuries from sudden twisting or using incorrect lifting technique cause strained muscles or ligaments resulting in inflammation and pain. Other injuries could relate to the vertebrae and cause pain by compressing the spinal cord. Structural problems include ruptured or bulging discs, sciatica, arthritis, or osteoporosis. Poor posture or ill-fitting shoes can also cause pain to develop in the back.
If the back pain is caused by an injury, you will need to allow time and possibly medical treatment to begin the healing process. Physical therapy can help to increase healing and help to strengthen the muscles of the back to prevent the injury from reoccurring the future. Treatment of back pain will begin with an evaluation to pinpoint the condition that is causing the pain. The cause of the pain will be treated to cure as well as the symptoms to provide immediate relief. This approach is intended to reduce the pain to restore movement and quality of life and also to keep it from returning. Depending on the specific ailment, treatment can range anywhere from medications such as anti-inflammatory painkillers to ice and cold packs. Physical therapists can help to reduce the pain, strengthen the body and educate patients on how to protect themselves from the injury recurring or overcompensating with other parts of their body and increasing the risk of injury in another body part. The physical therapist will use a combination of passive treatments like massage, TENS stimulation or the application of heat and cold to reduce existing symptoms. When the patient experiences less discomfort, the therapist will begin more active therapies like assisted stretching, core conditioning and strengthening exercises for the back and other supporting muscles. The improvement in strength helps to protect the body from the injury recurring.
Education is an important part of a physical therapist’s role. The therapist will teach the patient about how his or her body should align and function, and provide training to help them to maintain correct posture and motion. The therapist may give tips on the best position for sleeping and will provide advice on how to best ergonomically use your body. For example, they will train you in how to stand, sit and move correctly to maintain alignment and muscle engagement.