Most cases of low back pain are short-lived—or acute—and only last for a few weeks before gradually subsiding. Getting regular physical activity and performing targeted strengthening exercises will further facilitate the healing process, and many patients are able to experience significant improvements without any professional intervention.
But for others, the pain does not improve over time, even after making lifestyle changes and increasing physical activity levels. Persistent low back pain that lasts for more than three months is categorized as a “chronic,” which usually means that additional strategies are needed. There are also many patients that aren’t comfortable performing exercises at home without guidance and who may require a more hands-on approach to managing their condition.
For anyone that falls into either of these groups, a more structured treatment program is required, and physical therapists are the professionals best equipped to provide this in a safe and effective manner. Physical therapy uses a variety of movement-based interventions for low back patients, some of which the patient executes independently with guidance, and others that the therapist carefully performs. The ultimate goal of each component of treatment is to teach patients how to move better in order to reduce their pain levels, increase function, and prevent further recurrence.
Seeing a physical therapist as the first point of care for low back pain can also help patients avoid other expensive or unnecessary interventions in the future. Research has shown that individuals who undergo early physical therapy are less likely to have surgery or injections for their pain, and it has also been found to reduce costs, healthcare use, opioid use, and improve health care efficiency.
Each low back pain treatment program is tailored specifically to the patient’s needs, abilities, goals, and preferences, but there are certain features that most share in common. A typical treatment program for low back pain will consist of the following:
- Passive interventions (performed by the therapist)
- Ice and/or heat therapy
- Manual (hands-on) therapy
- Active physical therapy (performed by the patient)
- Stretching exercises for the buttocks, back, spine and hamstrings are helpful for keeping joints flexible and should be done twice a day
- Strengthening exercises are needed to build the muscles in the back and core, and should be done for 15-20 minutes every other day
- Low-impact aerobic exercises like walking, biking and swimming are also important and should be done for 30-40 minutes, three times a week
- Education: physical therapists will also provide tips and guidance on how to improve your posture and make other necessary changes that may be contributing to your pain
Low back pain is one of the most common conditions in all of healthcare, and it often becomes a burden for the countless individuals who are impacted by it. But as you can see, there are a number of ways you can take control of your situation and make changes that will greatly benefit you. If you are suffering from back pain give us a call and together we will build a personal plan that addresses your individual need.