There are few more debilitating conditions than back pain. Ranging from a dull ache to excruciating, back pain can keep you from performing simple daily tasks you once enjoyed. While nearly 80 percent of adults experience back pain at some point in their lives, the treatments used to alleviate it are varied. Yet many people automatically think surgery is the best option to relieve back pain. Carrying high levels of risk and requiring months of recovery, back surgery is nothing to be undertaken lightly. Fortunately, surgery is not your only option to relieve back pain. Here are a few things to consider.
Many people associate physical therapy with a post-surgical treatment plan. While it does play a vital role in helping patients recover once they have been under the knife, it is also an incredible tool for pain relief. A physical therapist can treat acute pain with manual therapies such as heat, ice, electrical stimulation, and massage. However, what most people don’t realize is that pain relief often requires strengthening the structures around the injury, not just treating the injury itself. If you are experiencing back pain, you may need to strengthen your core muscles in your abdomen and legs to help your back find relief. This process is not a fast one, but a physical therapist can show you exercises that are aimed at relieving your pain.
It is important to remember that a physical therapist is an expert in the way the body moves. We have a natural tendency to rest when we are in pain, rather than move. In reality, many people who experience back pain need to learn how to move better. Physical therapy can help you regain lost movement in your back and legs while decreasing your pain levels. A physical therapist can also show you how to prevent further injury in your daily life by teaching you how to bend, lift, stretch, sit, stand, or walk in ways that relieve your back pain.
If you are already planning on surgery to help alleviate back pain, you may already have a recovery plan that includes physical therapy. What you may not know is that physical therapy is a great way to prepare for surgery as well. Not only can it improve your cardiovascular function, but physical therapy can also strengthen the muscles and muscle attachments in areas that will already be weakened by surgery. Even a few sessions with a physical therapist have been shown to reduce postoperative care by more than 25 percent. Since most back surgery procedures require long periods of recovery, the idea of cutting it down by a fourth is appealing.
A physical therapist will evaluate your current condition and pain level. They will consult with your surgeon for more information and any imaging studies that are available. The physical therapist will then create a treatment plan aimed at immediate pain relief and strengthening the body in preparation for surgery. If you will need the use of your arms for balance, the physical therapist will help you strengthen your upper body in preparation. If you need better core strength to hold the structures of your spine in place, the physical therapist will work on strengthening your muscles without causing additional damage.