top of page
  • Dr. Mark Freund

Benefits of Physical Therapy for Back Pain

benefits of physical therapy for back pain

Have you wondered "is physical therapy effective for lower back pain?" The answer is yes, you can. Physical therapy is a conservative, non-surgical approach to help you get stronger and healthier, possibly eliminating your back pain altogether. It involves a combination of movement, massage, muscle stimulation, or hands-on care to ease discomfort and get you feeling like yourself again.

Physical Therapists (also known as PTs) are trained to create individualized plans that reduce pain and strengthen your body. Treatment plans can include exercises, stretches, and education on how to prevent pain and promote your long-term wellness. Physical therapy for lower back pain is a proven, highly effective treatment for low back pain.

What Will Physical Therapy Do For Back Pain?

Your treatment plan is your road to recovery! A physical therapist for back pain will tailor an individualized plan that meets your needs and constraints. Your back pain physical therapy treatment plan will include a range of both passive and active modalities to provide relief from back pain. Passive modalities are when the therapist treats you with massage, heat, ice, electrical stimulation, and manipulation. Active modalities are when you take a more active role and do exercises and stretches to improve range of motion and relieve pain. By following this treatment plan, you'll find that physical therapy can reduce or totally eliminate your back pain.

Physical therapy is an effective treatment for both back and neck pain. The goals and expected outcomes of these treatments include:

  • Reduction of pain and stiffness. By using passive treatments such as manual therapy, your physical therapist will help alleviate pain in the affected area and accelerate the healing process.

  • Development of strength. Your physical therapist will create a specific exercise plan for your particular needs, which will aid in the strengthening of muscles in the affected area.

  • Improvement of range of motion. Your physical therapist will implement flexibility exercises into your treatment plan, which will help increase the range of motion in your back and neck.

  • Prevention of further issues. By learning proper body mechanics, you can avoid future injuries and prevent pain from recurring.

  • Improvement of overall quality of life. Physical therapy can help you return to your normal routine much quicker, allowing for an overall improvement in quality of life.

Your physical therapy treatments will be split into two categories: passive and active. Passive physical therapy treatments for back and neck pain may include ice and heat therapies, massage therapy, electrotherapy, or ultrasound—these help in relieving pain, stiffness, and inflammation. Active physical therapy treatments for back and neck pain may include any stretches and exercises that your physical therapist deems fit for your specific condition. Active therapy helps to increase strength and flexibility, in addition to relieving pain in the spine and affected muscles.

Types of Low Back Pain

Pain that is felt anywhere between the lower part of your ribs to the lower part of your backside is considered lower back pain. There are two types of low back pain: Sciatica and non-sciatica. The sciatica nerve runs from your lower back through your buttocks and down your legs.

Sciatica pain is often described as a sudden, hot pain that shoots down the buttocks and leg. Sciatica can be caused by a number of conditions that put pressure on the sciatica nerve. Non-sciatica pain is mostly in your back and not felt in the legs.

Lower back pain can also be caused by arthritis, over-exertion, and trauma. Back pain usually improves on its own in about four weeks. If you are experiencing significant pain or your pain isn't getting better, contact your doctor.

low back pain treatment

Sciatica and non-sciatica pain have somewhat different symptoms.

Sciatica symptoms

Sciatica pain typically feels like a sharp, electric-like pain that starts in your lower back and travels through the buttocks and down one leg.

  • Sharp pain in your back that moves down one leg.

  • The pain is usually felt behind the legs.

  • Sometimes there is numbness or weakness in the legs.

Non-sciatica pain

Non-sciatica pain is felt within the lower back area. The pain can be dull, achy, sharp, or burning.

  • Dull, achy, or sharp pain mostly in your back. It's usually worse with movement.

  • Usually not felt in legs.

  • Can feel like your back is "tight."

  • May be painful around your hips.

How is it Diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and do a physical exam. To check for broken bones or other damage, your provider may order imaging studies. These studies help your provider see clear pictures of your vertebrae, discs, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Your provider may order:

  • Spine X-ray, which uses radiation to produce images of bones.

  • MRI uses a magnet and radio waves to create pictures of bones, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues.

  • CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to create 3D images of bones and soft tissues.

  • Electromyography (EMG) tests nerves and muscles and checks for neuropathy (nerve damage), which can cause tingling or numbness in your legs.

back pain diagnosis
  • Depending on the cause of pain, your provider may also order blood tests or urine tests. Blood tests can detect genetic markers for some conditions that cause back pain (such as ankylosing spondylitis). Urine tests check for kidney stones, which cause pain in the flank (the sides of the low back).

Benefits of Physical Therapy

Physical therapy to treat lower back pain helps to get the person back on their feet a lot quicker than they would be if they went for the surgery option instead. For this reason, doctors are more likely to suggest physical therapy as a treatment option for lower back pain. This is also a lot cheaper option. If you are not insured, surgery can be a very expensive and risky option that you really need to reconsider before you do it. Here are the benefits of physical therapy for back pain;

Personalized Care

Every person is different. Some patients have different symptoms and varying degrees of pain. Thus, it's important to receive the proper treatment needed to feel back and resolve the back pain. Physical therapists do not take a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, they'll take time to consider your health condition, symptoms, how you respond to movements, your body, age, lifestyle, and other important factors to give you the care you need.

Pain Reduction

In many cases, physical therapy can help limit the amount of pain that you experience after a back injury. The physical therapist can help work with you to strengthen the area that has been injured, stretch the soft tissues, and increase the range of motion. These actions may help decrease the pain that you experience without the need for heavy pain medications. While physical therapy may not completely eliminate back pain, it can be quite helpful in lowering the amount of pain that you experience.

Most prescription pain medications are meant to numb your pain all over — they do not get to the root of the issue, which caused you to feel the pain in the first place. Unfortunately, medications only last 12-24 hours, which means you will have to pop pills if you want to avoid the pain continuously. This eventually leads to some nasty side effects, which may need more medications to handle on top of the back pain. Skip the chemical trauma and opt for physical therapy instead, which will get to the base of the issue. Eventually, this will alleviate the pain altogether and allow you to live the life you love again.

Mobility Restoration

Due to the cause of an injury, you may be left with an inability to move your body as you did before the trauma occurred. This can be extremely frustrating, as you will not be able to do simple things such as putting on your seat belt or even style your hair. Thankfully, a skilled physical therapist will teach you some range of motion exercises and help you to strengthen the areas that are causing you problems.

Reduce Risk of Further Injury

Physical therapy does not have to be for people who have experienced a physical injury. Many elderly individuals are referred to physical therapists by their doctors to help them achieve balance so they can prevent a fall. As you age, your risks for falls increase due to muscular weaknesses and imbalances. Physical therapists are highly trained to assist the geriatric population with risk assessments for falls and help them to achieve balance again.

Improve Muscle Strength

A range of back exercises catering to the back, lower back, and shoulders can help in strengthening back muscles and increasing core strength. Back strengthening exercises can improve the strength in the deep layers of muscles that support your spine. Thus, back strengthening exercises can improve the support to the spine, making you less prone to injuries and shocks when physical activity is performed. Back stretching exercises are the best type of exercise to improve muscle strength. Stretching the back restores the balance between the spine and hip muscles. As you practice physical therapy exercises flexibility in key muscle groups such as hamstrings and abdominals, the strain on the spine will be reduced. This will also help to increase muscle strength in the legs and abdomen. Lower back exercises serve as a remedy for lower back pain and relieve stress and discomfort in the spine.

Avoid Spine Surgery

Chances are, you can ease your back pain without going under the knife or laser. Ice, heat, spinal injections, physical therapy, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) medications like ibuprofen can help.

physical therapy stretches to relieve back pain

One of the primary reasons why spinal surgery should be avoided is the risk. All surgeries carry the risk of infection, excessive bleeding, and nerve injury. Not to mention many people don't like being put under general anesthesia or that they may have to use potentially addictive pills to manage the pain after surgery. Aside from these risks, there's no guarantee of the outcome of the surgery. And even worse, people aren't often discussing the outcomes they truly want with the surgeon.

Many times when back surgery is a consideration, the discussion is based on pain. The surgeries are commonly done with the intent to take the pain away. The assumption, then, is that without pain, a patient will be able to return to their day-to-day life or activities they enjoy. Take running, tennis, golf, or even playing with grandkids, for example. The surgery is designed to remove the thing causing pain, not get you back to your life. Not to mention, the surgery does not always work to resolve the pain.

What Happens In Physical Therapy for Back Pain?

There are many ways that a physical therapist can help with back pain. Some of the treatment options include:

#1 Stretch

The number one recommendation? Stretch! If you suffer from lower back pain, exercising and stretching those muscles can provide strength and support, help maintain a normal range of motion, and potentially provide pain relief. Oftentimes, back pain is caused by lack of use.

#2 Movement Control Exercises

Whether you have acute or persistent back pain, it's possible that the pain may be a result of back muscles compensating for poor posture or movement patterns. Movement control exercises help retrain the spine's muscles and can help provide greater support and reduce pain.

#3 Manual Therapy

manual therapy back pain treatment

In the case of non-specific back pain, the experts at Results Physiotherapy often recommend a combination of manual therapy and exercise. Manual therapy may include "joint and soft tissue mobilization, dry needling, passive stretching, and Myofascial release.

#4 Education

Finally, education is a major component of the practice's approach to using physical therapy to treat back pain. When patients are educated about their symptoms, knowledgeable about how to care for themselves, and equipped to do so, better outcomes may be possible! Great physical therapists are able to help remove the fear of movement, freeing patients to restore their bodies naturally with healthy stretches and exercises.

What to Expect During Physical Therapy for Low Back Pain

When low back pain is persistent or interferes with normal activities, a visit to a physical therapist may be necessary. When you go to a physical therapist, he or she will perform an initial evaluation on the first visit. Be prepared to move around quite a bit, so be sure to wear comfortable clothing and make sure that your low back is accessible.

An initial evaluation will consist of several different parts. First, a history of your present problem will be taken. Be prepared to discuss your symptoms and what activities or positions make your symptoms better or worse. Some special questions will be asked to help the therapist determine the nature of your problem and to discover anything that needs immediate medical attention.

The physical therapist will also take measurements of how you are moving. This may include measurements of your range of motion and strength. A postural assessment will also be included in the initial evaluation. From the results of the evaluation, a specific treatment plan will be devised and started. It is important to remember to be an active participant in your treatment and ask questions if you are unsure of what to do.

Physical Therapy for Back Pain Relief

At Natural Care Chiropractic, your well-being is our top priority. We want to be able to help you as quickly and effectively as possible. We will find the best physical therapy for backs that will help your individual needs. If you are dealing with a back that hurts, call us today. Why should you have to live in pain? Instead of just gritting your teeth through the pain or taking dangerous painkillers, we can help you today. Schedule a consultation, and our friendly physical therapy professionals will help you to get back on track as soon as possible.


bottom of page