Physical therapy — purpose and overview of back pain relief

Physical therapy is one of the most commonly used conservative treatment methods to relieve back pain. The purpose of physical therapy is to restore mobility and relieve pain caused by spine conditions through exercises designed to strengthen important supporting muscles. Many patients dealing with neck or back pain are able to find relief through physical therapy that gets them back to normal, comfortable activity.

Upon diagnosis of a spine condition causing back pain — such as a herniated disc — doctors will often prescribe physical therapy as an initial treatment. If you are referred to a physical therapy center, the treatment program will typically be based on your spine condition and medical history. Physical therapy is often combined with other forms of conservative treatment, such as TENS therapy or spinal decompression.

Purpose of physical therapy

To help patients find relief from back pain and restore lost mobility, a licensed physical therapist uses a variety of techniques. After performing an assessment to determine which movements are being impaired or causing pain, a physical therapist can use methods such as:

  • Manual therapy. This is the type of treatment often associated with physical therapy. A therapist uses his or her hands to stretch, massage and strengthen affected muscles.
  • Ultrasound therapy. This method involves the use of sound waves that actually generate heat within the body. This can relax muscles before and after therapy sessions.
  • Traction. Spinal traction is a term for decompression therapy, performed manually or with the help of devices like an inversion table. The goal is to lengthen the spine and take pressure off of compressed spinal nerves.
  • Exercise. Physical therapists will often recommend exercise that can be performed either at home or at the therapy center.

Treatment after physical therapy

While physical therapy and other conservative treatments can provide effective relief for neck or back pain, surgery can become an option if weeks or months do not improve symptoms. Surgery is generally seen as a last-resort treatment because of the highly invasive nature of traditional open spine procedures.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer an alternative to traditional open back surgery. Our minimally invasive spine surgery involves a muscle-sparing, less than 1-inch incision that leads to a shorter recovery time^ and less risk of complications like infection and excessive scarring.

To learn more, contact our dedicated team of Spine Care Consultants to receive your no-cost MRI review* that can help you determine if you are a candidate for one of our procedures.