How Do You Overcome Chronic Back Pain? Ask Our Physical Therapist

Did you know that approximately 80 percent of Americans have experienced (or will experience) back pain? That’s a depressing statistic, especially if you’re already one of those sufferers. Chronic back pain can prevent you from performing the countless daily tasks you need or want to perform. Even when you’re not engaged in activity, your back pain may be keeping you miserable 24/7. But don’t assume that drugs can provide more than temporary relief, or that surgery won’t create more problems than it solves. Instead, go with the healthy, natural way to kiss your back pain goodbye — through physical therapy.

Drugs and Surgery: Two Back Pain Solutions That Cause Fresh Problems

Back pain can be either acute or chronic in nature. Acute back pain often occurs as the direct result of torn muscles or other sudden, intense damage. But as agonizing as cute back pain may be, at least you have the comfort of knowing that your pain will probably subside as the injury heals. Chronic back offers no such comfort. By definition, any kind of chronic pain lasts for more than 3 months, either attacking you in bouts or plaguing you with constant discomfort. The underlying cause is often progressive and/or irreversible. Common causes of chronic back pain include:

  • Bulging or herniated discs
  • Chronic muscle strain from an unbalanced posture or weak back muscles
  • Degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis of the spine
  • A narrowing of the spinal canal known as spinal stenosis
  • An old back injury that failed to heal properly, leaving you with internal scarring and chronic stiffness

Drugs can relieve chronic back pain, but only imperfectly. After a few hours of lessened symptoms, you have to take another dosage, and then another. If you’re using opioids to dull your pain, you can end up in a frightening cycle of increased tolerance and addiction. The most extreme form of treatment, spinal surgery, can permanently limit your back’s flexibility. You might even end up with an even more painful problem known as failed back surgery syndrome.

The Physical Therapy Approach to Chronic Back Pain Management

Instead of numbing yourself with drugs or risking major surgery, give physical therapy a chance to relieve your chronic back pain the safe, natural way. Our physical therapist will first take the time to examine your back, analyze your symptoms, evaluate your medical history, and talk to you about your pain management goals. This information enables the physical therapist to devise a comprehensive physical therapy plan just for you. Here are some ways you can benefit from such a plan:

  • Stretching exercises can can help you increase your range of motion, allowing you to do more with less back pain.
  • Strengthening exercises can give weak back muscles the reinforcement they need to hold your back straighter and with less fatigue.
  • Laser therapy, massage therapy, and heat or cold treatments can reduce chronic inflammation and relax painful muscle spasms in your back.
  • Our physical therapist can recommend specific lifestyle modifications to help you ease stress on your back and avoid future back problems.
  • Mindfulness practices and other techniques can help you reduce anxiety and other reactions to pain that might make the pain worse, helping you control your pain responses for the better.

Chronic back pain leads many people to consider surgery or addictive painkillers to deal with the problem. The depression that can accompany serious, long-lasting back pain can lead people to think that.  But what if surgery or opioids didn’t need to be a part of your story? If you’ve been thinking about surgery to finally feel some relief, contact our clinic today to find out how working with a physical therapist can be a possible solution to your chronic back pain.

Three physical therapy relief methods for back pain:

There’s a substantial amount of medical literature which proves that physical therapy can help chronic back pain to resolve. Is “living with the pain” working out for you? Probably not. Working with a physical therapist is a proven method for improving the symptoms of chronic back pain.  In many cases, the need for surgery can be alleviated and patients will no longer need to rely on painkillers if they follow through on the physical therapist’s recommendations. Here are three ways physical therapy helps chronic back pain.

  • Passive Physical Therapy: Physical therapy isn’t just about exercise. “Passive” physical therapy involves non-physical treatments which help to relax the muscles and deliver pain relief. For chronic back pain, this can involve hot and cold packs applied to painful areas, electrical stimulation of the muscle structures, and more.
  • Active Physical Therapy: Your physical therapy plan will involve specific exercises and stretches, which is known as “active” physical therapy. Your physical therapist has years of training and hands-on experience working with chronic back pain patients. This won’t be like training for a title fight. The exercises will specifically strengthen muscle groups that support your back and core. The stretches will be geared toward helping your body regain the mobility and flexibility you have lost as a result of the pain.
  • Long-Term Support: It takes time to alleviate chronic back pain through stretching, exercise and other therapies. If you try to do it on your own, it’s easy to get discouraged and give up. Your physical therapist is there to provide emotional and psychological motivation throughout the journey until your back pain is a distant memory.

What’s causing your back pain?

Sometimes patients and their doctors know exactly what caused the back pain to originate. The patient usually had a work-related accident or a traffic accident in which their back was injured. However, a 2014 article in the journal Clinical Radiology noted that in 90 percent of cases, the source of the back pain is unknown. In most cases, back pain develops on its own over time, without that “one incident” that injured the person’s back. The main symptom of chronic back pain is right in the condition’s name: Intense pain in the back. Other symptoms include limited mobility; you may not be able to twist and turn your body like you were once able to. Getting up out of a chair or even out of bed in the morning can be an excruciating experience. Lifting even light objects can cause the pain to intensify.

So, how exactly does back pain occur?

Back pain is fairly easy to define: it’s pain that a person experiences in their back, usually along the spine or in the muscles attached to the spine. “Chronic back pain,” however, is pain that lasts for longer than 12 weeks. The person’s back might feel better or worse during certain times of day, but the pain is always there and it’s always debilitating. It can interfere with work or even cause people to struggle with simple day-to-day tasks.

Master Your Back Pain — With Our Help

You have the power to master your chronic pain, starting with the decision to treat yourself to physical therapy. Contact our physical therapist today to schedule an initial consultation!

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