If you suffer from lower back pain, even the most mundane activities can be painful. In most cases, lower back pain will last between 2 and 6 weeks. However, there are many people who have recurrent back pain and this is when physical therapy will be recommended by a doctor. A physiotherapist will be able to help you with your lower back pain in a number of ways and will talk you through all options when you first see them.
Passive Physical Therapy
One of the ways that a physio will look to help you is through passive therapy. This therapy will focus on the reduction of pain levels through therapy known as modalities. This type of therapy is considered to be passive because they are primarily completed by the patient and require little input from the physical therapist.
There are a number of therapies that fall into this category. Some of the therapies will include the use of ice and heat packs, the completion of an ultrasound and the use of TENS units. The exact passive physical therapy that you need will be determined when you first see the physical therapist.
The most commonly used passive therapy is hot and cold therapy. This therapy will help to reduce inflammation and reduce muscle spasms. It is important to note that some people gain better relief from their back pain through cold therapy while others get better results with heat therapy. You can alternative between the two to get the most from this therapy. You should apply a hot or cold compress to the lower back for 10 to 20 minutes every 2 hours for the first few days of the pain episode.
The use of an ultrasound for lower back pain is different to the other uses of ultrasound technology. For back pain, the ultrasound will form deep heating through sound waves which penetrate the soft tissue. This therapy is especially useful for people suffering from acute pain episodes.
TENS units or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator units will use electrical stimulation to lower the levels of pain that you feel. This therapy is not recommended for all patients and a trial with the unit will generally be completed before this is included in the exercise plan. If you feel pain relief from the test, the TENS unit may be used at home for long-term lower back pain treatment.
Back Pain Exercise
Most people will benefit from a combination of passive and active physical therapy. Active physical therapy generally relates to exercises which will help to strengthen the back muscles and rehabilitate the spinal column. There are a number of different exercises that will make up the exercise plan your physical therapist recommends.
The first set of exercises will be for stretching the back. Most of these exercises will look at stretching the hamstring muscles once or twice a day. These exercises will not take long to complete and you might forget them when you are not feeling much pain.
The second set of exercises will look at strengthening the back muscles to reduce the risks of back pain. These exercises will generally take 15 to 20 minutes to complete and will include dynamic lumbar stabilization. Core muscle strengthening exercises are also included for lower back pain. Your physical therapist will show you how to complete these exercises correctly to ensure that you are going to get the benefits.
Another type of exercise that your physical therapist may recommend is low-impact aerobic conditioning. This exercise is important for long-term pain reduction and there are a number of options available. Low-impact aerobic exercise will include walking, swimming, water therapy and cycling. The length of these exercises will vary depending on the pain that you feel, but is generally 30 to 40 minutes 3 times a week. Your physical therapist will generally advise that you complete the aerobic exercises on days when you are not completing strengthening exercises.
There are a number of ways that physical therapists can help with lower back pain. There are some passive methods and active methods that will be used. The physical therapist will generally provide a plan with a combination of these therapies.