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Role of Physical Therapy in Treating Chronic Back Pain

Back pain is a common complaint affecting people of all age groups. According to reports from Mayo Clinic, about 80% of all Americans experience low back pain at least once in their lifetime. Chronic pain can occur due to a wide range of factors such as muscle or ligament strain, injury to the bones/spines and normal wear-and tear effects of aging, and chronic conditions like arthritis. Incorrect posture, heavy or strenuous work and other abnormalities of organs can also cause back pain. Pain management centers in Brooklyn, NYC offer effective nonsurgical options for back pain and physical therapy (PT) is an important part of the treatment plan. PT involves a combination of modalities aimed at easing pain symptoms and improving mobility and flexibility.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of back pain can range from a persistent dull ache to a sudden sharp pain. The condition can become chronic. Common symptoms include muscle aches, stabbing or shooting pain, pain that radiates down your leg, limited flexibility or range of motion of the back, muscle weakness, and tingling sensations or numbness.

Physical Therapy to Treat Chronic Back Pain

Physical therapy (PT) is an effective noninvasive option for managing back pain. Physical therapists develop a treatment plan by combining a variety of techniques. The first goal will be to reduce pain and swelling if any. This will be followed by the application of various techniques to increase flexibility, strength, coordination and balance. Physical therapy may be effective to treat back pain due to a wide variety of conditions –
Back Pain

  • Muscular problems
  • Recovering from injuries such as a broken hip
  • Degenerative disk disease
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis
  • Stroke
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Tumors of the spine
  • Vertebral fractures
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Joint dysfunction
  • Skeletal irregularities
  • Incontinence
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Sciatica

What Physical Therapy Treatment Involves

The physical therapy treatment recommended for patients with back pain will be based on the severity of the condition. In addition to physical and medical evaluation, imaging tests such as MRI scans, CT scans, X-rays and Nerve studies (electromyography, or EMG) of the spine may be used to diagnose the root cause of the pain. A physical therapy back pain management plan may include the following modalities –

  • Exercises – Therapeutic exercises such as gentle stretching, strengthening, stabilization and aerobic exercises improve spine functioning and increase strength, flexibility, and mobility.
    • Stretching exercises help maintain range of motion, and help relax muscles that are tense. Exercises that stretch the back muscles, abdominal muscles, legs and hips are highly recommended for people suffering from back pain.
    • Strengthening exercises are designed to strengthen the abdominal muscles and low back muscles. These include – low back exercises (hyperextensions) and abdominal strengthening workouts like sit-ups, crunches, abdominal machines, and leg raises.
    • Stabilization techniques involve use of exercise balls or balancing machines to strengthen the secondary muscles of the spine.
    • Low impact aerobic exercises such as walking, biking, swimming, and water therapy help in long-term pain reduction and prevent future occurrence of back pain.
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) – TENS uses low-voltage electric stimulation that interacts with the sensory nervous system and reduces pain. The electrical stimulation to surface nerves obstructs the transmission of pain signals.
  • Heat and Cold Therapy – When the pain is the result of a strain or over-exertion, applying heat and cold packs may provide relief. Ice packs reduce inflammation and heat application loosens tissues, thereby stimulating blood flow to the affected area.
  • Manual therapy – Manual therapy helps reduce pain and improve flexibility. It includes –
    • Massaging muscles and the body’s soft tissues helps improve blood circulation and reduce pain.
    • Mobilization uses slow movements to twist and pull joints and bones into place. It helps to loosen tight joint tissues and increase flexibility.
    • Manipulation involves fast, forceful movements to relieve pain and re-align joints and bones.
  • Ultrasound – Sound waves are applied to the skin via an ultrasound wand. Ultrasound may promote blood flow and healing by heating the tendons, muscles, and tissues and is particularly useful for relieving chronic pain.

Back pain treatment at a reliable Brooklyn healthcare center that has trained and experienced physical therapists can relieve chronic pain, improve flexibility, and build endurance.

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