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Physical Therapy Exercises for Treating Back Pain

Back pain is a very common problem, affecting most people at some point in their lives. The pain can range from a persistent dull ache to a sudden sharp pain or become chronic. The condition can occur due to a wide range of factors such as muscle or ligament strain and some form of injury to the bones or spines. Incorrect posture, heavy or strenuous work and other abnormalities of organs can lead to the condition. Back pain treatment would depend on whether the pain is acute or chronic.

Back PainThough it can affect people of any age group, back pain is more common among adults aged between 35-55 years. The condition is associated with the way our bones, muscles and ligaments in the back work and connect together. The signs and symptoms associated with this condition differ from one person to another and may depend on the underlying causes. The pain may be mild and manageable, or so severe that you are unable to move. It can also be chronic or last for a short time. Common symptoms include –

  • Shooting or stabbing pain
  • Pain that radiates down your leg
  • Tingling or burning sensation
  • Limited flexibility or range of motion of the back
  • Muscle spasms or stiffness
  • Dull aching

Physical Therapy Exercises for Pain Management

Physical therapy (PT) is an effective non-invasive option for managing back pain. Most physicians will be able to diagnose back pain through a physical examination. If the physician suspects injury to the back, imaging tests such as X-ray or MRI scan may be used to locate underlying cause.

Physical therapy combines physiology with exercises and applies these principles to the body when an injury is sustained. These exercises potentially support the spine and its joints including the muscles, ligaments and tendons. As an initial conservative (nonsurgical) treatment option, patients with low back pain will be referred for a physical therapy exercise program before considering other more aggressive treatments (like back surgery). Here are PT exercises for back pain –

Stretching – These exercises will help to maintain or improve normal range of motion and provide substantial relief for muscles suffering disuse atrophy (shrinking muscles due to low activity) or in spasm from inappropriate posture or nerve irritation. Exercises that stretch the back muscles, abdominal muscles, legs and hips are highly recommended for people suffering from back pain. Stretching exercises include –

  • Flexion stretch (chin to chest)
  • Lateral flexion (ear to shoulder)
  • Neck and shoulder stretches

Strengthening – These are workouts designed to strengthen the abdominal muscles and low back muscles. They include –

  • Abdominal strengthening, such as sit-ups, crunches, abdominal machines, and leg raises.
  • Low back exercises (hyperextensions), which can be performed on machines or by simply lying on the stomach and slowly raising the chest off the ground. This workout uses the lower back muscles to ‘hyperextend’ the spine.

Stabilization – This technique may include use of exercise balls or balancing machines. Stabilization exercises help strengthen the secondary muscles of the spine, supporting it through various ranges of motion.

Physical therapy programs also include modalities such as Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), Ice or Heat application, Traction and Rehabilitation.

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