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Ask a PT: How Can Physical Therapy Help Back Pain?

February 19, 2015

Ask A PT | Laura Beth Brown of PT Solutions of East Cobb/Sprayberry answers how physical therapy can help back pain. |

Featured Physical Therapist:
Laura Beth Brown, PT, DPT

Q: How can physical therapy help back pain? 

A: “Physical therapy treatment for back pain has been shown to decrease healthcare costs related to unnecessary and expensive imaging, surgery, and procedures, as well as to decrease lost work days. Research has also shown that starting physical therapy quickly after the onset of back pain is more effective than a “wait and see” approach.

When compared to using rest and medication to treat back pain, early initiation of physical therapy care can significantly improve overall outcomes and be more cost-effective while also providing a speedier return to pain-free daily activities.

To help patients with back pain, physical therapists (PTs) first perform comprehensive examinations of their patients, then design treatment plans that address the factors that lead the patients to develop their symptoms. PTs will ask patients for a history of their symptoms, then assess strength, neuromuscular control, posture, flexibility, joint mobility, movement patterns and biomechanics in order to identify problems contributing to the patient’s symptoms.

To effectively address the identified problems, PTs can use a variety of evidence-based treatments including aerobic exercise, manual therapy, and targeted stabilization exercises.

In regards to aerobic activity, physical therapists can guide patients into developing an appropriate physical activity program to promote general wellness in addition to the healing of their back.

Manual therapy is an essential component in the management of back pain because patients often present with joint mobility limitations and soft tissue restrictions that play a large role in the development of pain. The pain and mobility deficits impact the patients’ ability to effectively move by making it difficult to utilize joints and muscles properly during daily activities. While many patients are aware that the postures they assume while sitting, sleeping, standing, and performing lifting, bending, and reaching tasks provoke their symptoms, they may not know how, or be able to effectively adjust their mechanics to avoid aggravating their back.

PTs can use targeted stabilization exercises to promote the strength, neuromuscular control, and flexibility needed to sustain proper postures, and they can determine if there are specific faulty movement patterns that must be corrected for a patient to perform daily activities with healthy and efficient biomechanics.”

Ask a PT is a monthly blog feature where physical therapists at PT Solutions Physical Therapy give their professional input on a popular patient question. Do you have a question that you’d like answered? Leave us a comment below!

About the PT 

Laura Beth Brown is the clinic director of PT Solutions of Sandy Springs and is a graduate of the PT Solutions Orthopaedic Residency. LauraBeth got her doctorate at Georgia State University, and graduated from Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia prior to that. LauraBeth loves treating all forms of orthopedic injuries, from chronic low back pain to acute ankle fractures or rotator cuff tears. LauraBeth has a background in soccer, running, gymnastics, dance, and swimming and she enjoys traveling and participating in as many outdoor activities as possible.