Physical therapy is often associated with recovering from a surgery or an injury, meant to help strengthen muscles that may have weakened and regain former flexibility and range of motion. However, physical therapy may benefit people in other circumstances. One common, yet often unthought-of, reason for physical therapy is the treatment of back pain.
Generally speaking, the goals of physical therapy are to increase function, decrease pain and discomfort, and educate the affected patient on ways to maintain a higher quality of life while decreasing the risk of additional recurrences of pain. In terms of treating back pain, these goals are worked toward via passive physical therapy and by active physical exercises. Passive physical therapy refers to anything that is done to the patient, such as massage, ultrasound, or the use of heat or ice packs. Active exercise encompasses a large range of activities, including stretches, strengthening exercises, and low-impact aerobic activity.
Physical therapy for chronic pain may be frustrating for patients. Most people in pain want to feel better, and fast. That’s natural. Medications may mask the symptoms, but physical therapy has the potential to bring about a real, long-lasting difference in a person’s pain level. While anybody can jump on the internet and look up exercises for back pain, working with a physical therapist helps one determine the best exercises for his/her specific pain. Physical therapists have extensive training in anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology (the study of movement), and are well educated as to how specific exercises affect specific muscles.
If you are experiencing chronic back pain, it is important to speak with your doctor. Your doctor will help determine the cause of the pain, help you manage that pain, and help you work towards solving the underlying issue, which may or may not involve physical therapy.