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Physical Therapy for Back Pain

Physical therapy can often be an effective way to treat back pain. Exercise and education is key to help strengthen your back and learn how to improve everyday activities to help take the stress off your back.

How do I know if physical therapy is right for my back pain?

Physical therapy can help improve back pain caused by many different types of back conditions including musculoskeletal, disc or spinal deformity. Your doctor will recommend physical therapy if it is right for your treatment plan. 

What to expect during physical therapy

Your first physical therapy session will include an in-depth evaluation. Your physical therapist will ask you questions regarding your back, including:

  • Where do you feel pain?
  • How long have you been experiencing pain?
  • What activities increase pain symptoms?
  • What activities lessen pain?
  • What is your medical history?

Then, your physical therapist will test your range of motion, muscle strength and other areas to help better understand your injury or diagnosis. Finally, you and your therapist will discuss your daily activities and goals for treatment. 

This comprehensive evaluation is key to developing a personalized treatment plan that will work for you. Your treatment plan will include exercises and education you learn at physical therapy, and will also including exercises for you to do at home.

Sessions for physical therapy generally last about one hour. Physical therapists recommend that you wear comfortable clothes that do not restrict movement, such as jeans, skirts or dresses. Gym shoes are also recommended. 

The goal of every physical therapy plan, regardless of your diagnosis or injury, is to empower you to take control of your back pain. Exercises can help ease your back pain and strengthen it to help avoid future flare-ups. 

Improving everyday activities to improve your back pain

Learning better body mechanics and posture is key to improving your back pain. Physical therapy will help teach you how to properly and safely do everyday activities – from tying your shoes, washing the dishes, lifting heavy objects to standing up straight and working at your computer without aggravating back pain. 

Your physical therapist will ask you about the types of activities that cause pain to increase, and will demonstrate to you proper ways to do those activities more efficiently. Common advice includes:

  • Tie your shoes with your foot propped up on a small stool or step
  • Rest one foot on the cabinet under the sink while washing dishes to redistribute your weight
  • Take short breaks when standing still during everyday chores to stretch your back

These simple tips, along with many others, can help improve your back pain.

Posture and back pain

Another surprising culprit that can contribute to persistent, daily back pain is posture. Standing up straight, sitting correctly at a desk and not hunching over a phone can also have a big impact on reducing back pain. 

Active participation is key

Physical therapy can be a great way to treat back pain. However, it does require commitment and patience from you. Your physical therapist will teach you exercises that you can do at home, and show you how you can go through your day with less pain. Following that advice and treatment plan is key to strengthening your back and reducing your pain.