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Physical Therapy for Back Pain – Information, Exercises, and More

Every year, almost 65 million Americans report having an episode of back pain. 

Not only is it one of the most commonly reported physical pain complaints, but it’s also one of the leading causes of lost workdays.

If you’re among the millions of Americans suffering from back pain, then you may be wondering how you can get relief.

Back pain physical therapy can help:

  • Improve mobility
  • Increase strength; and
  • Eliminate back pain for good

What is Back Pain?

Back pain can include acute or chronic pain and discomfort in any part of the back, including:

  • Lower back 
  • Middle back 
  • Upper back
  • Back muscles
  • Nerves
  • Arthritis
  • Disc pain

If you’ve been experiencing back pain that cannot be treated by hot and cold therapy, or over-the-counter medications, then you may need to see a Doctor of Physical Therapy for treatment.

What Causes Back Pain?

Back pain can have several causes, including:

  • Sports injuries
  • Accidents
  • Bad habits
  • Muscle strains
  • Degenerative diseases

Whether chronic or acute, your back pain may require an examination from a physical therapist who may order additional tests to be conducted, such as an MRI or x-rays to help determine the cause and necessary course of treatment.

Back Pain Symptoms

Back pain can lead to a lack of mobility, flexibility, function, and eventually lead to disease. It’s important to book an appointment with your doctor or physical therapist to determine the cause of your pain

Symptoms can range from mild to severe and will vary depending on the cause of your back pain.

Symptoms may include:

  • Stiffness or aching along the spine
  • Chronic aching in the lower or mid-back
  • Back pain that emanates from the lower back down the back of the thigh and calf
  • Sharp pains in the back or neck as a result of lifting heavy things
  • Muscle spasms in the lower back from standing too long

You should see a doctor immediately if:

  • Pain increases when bending at the waist or coughing
  • You feel numbness in your groin, legs, or arms
  • You experience burning, frequent urination or bladder loss
  • You have a fever

Back Pain Treatment

Your physical therapist will conduct a series of exams to determine the cause of your pain before devising a treatment plan specific to your condition.

Lower Back Pain Physical Therapy

Lower back pain is the second-most common cause of disability in adults in the US.

For most patients suffering from lower back pain, physical therapy can help to alleviate the pain and even eliminate the cause of the pain through active therapy, such as exercises and stretching.

Lower back pain can be caused by:

  • Straining the muscles or ligaments
  • Ruptured or bulging disks
  • Arthritis or osteoporosis
  • Skeletal irregularities 

For one type of lower back pain, called lumbar spinal stenosis, physical therapy has been proven to be more effective, and less dangerous, than surgery.

If you’re experiencing low back pain you should contact a physical therapist for an immediate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Upper Back Pain Physical Therapy

While it is less common than lower back pain, upper back pain (or thoracic spine pain – TSP) affects 1 in 10 men and 1 in 5 women.

TSP is most commonly caused by:

  • Poor posture
  • Muscle overuse
  • Traumatic injury
  • Pinched nerve

A physical therapist can help determine the cause of your TSP and structure a treatment plan that may include:

  • Hot and cold therapy
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Stretching and strengthening exercises
  • Manual therapy
  • Patient education and at-home exercise and posture plan

Seeking treatment from a physical therapist as soon as pain starts can help speed the recovery process.

Back Pain Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?

Physical therapy is an effective treatment for neck and back pain. 

When you choose physical therapy, you can expect that the treatments will result in the following outcomes:

  • Pain relief
  • Increased range of motion
  • Strength building
  • Injury prevention
  • Increased quality of life

Treatments are individualized and based on the type of pain you are experiencing, but they may include:

  • Hot and cold therapy
  • Massage
  • Ultrasound or electrotherapy
  • Supervised stretching and exercising
  • Patient education and at-home exercise program

Seeing a physical therapist as soon as you begin to experience pain can help speed your recovery and reduce the risk of reinjury or lasting pain.

Best Back Pain Exercises

Depending on the location and cause of your back pain, your physical therapist might prescribe a list of exercises that you can do supervised, and at home.

Low Back Pain Physical Therapy Exercises

Your physical therapist will formulate a supervised exercise plan that is specific to your condition and may include:

  • Stretching
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Stabilization exercises
  • Core exercises
  • Aquatic therapy exercises

You should always seek the advice of a medical professional before engaging in any exercise treatment plan for your lower back pain.

Upper Back Pain Physical Therapy Exercises

Upper back pain physical therapy exercises may include:

  • Stretching
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Mobility exercises

Certain exercises can aggravate your condition, so always seek medical advice from a physical therapist before starting any exercise program for your pain.

How In Motion O.C Can Help With Back Pain – Both Lower and Upper

In Motion O.C. has helped hundreds—even thousands—of people suffering from back pain. 

Whether you’ve been injured, need help with postural issues, or have a degenerative back disease, our physical therapists can design a therapy program specific to your needs.

In Motion O.C. was voted #1 Physical Therapist in the entire country on Yelp for a reason.

Our client testimonials and case studies speak for themselves. Check us out on our website or drop by our state-of-the-art facility and speak to one of our physical therapists today.

Don’t suffer from back pain any longer, book your appointment, and let us get you on the path to pain-free living.

*This information about physical therapy for back pain was reviewed by Dr Natalie Thomas, PT, DPT. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

In Motion O.C.