Back Pain is Common
Back pain affects people of all backgrounds. It is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor other than cold and flu. Back pain affects 8 out of 10 adults in the United States. It can affect the upper, middle or, lower back. There can also be many causes such as herniated discs, arthritis, sciatica, muscle strain, poor posture, and a sedentary lifestyle just to name a few. Back pain can lead to loss of mobility, sleeplessness, and just all around misery. The chances are that at some time in your life either you or someone you care about will suffer from back pain. So what can or should you do when you experience back pain?
Conservative Care is Your Best Option
A recent study in the February issue of Spine, found that low back pain patients who has surgery had a lower return to work rate than those who did non-surgical treatments. Almost all categories of outcomes were worse for the patients who had surgery versus those who did not. 67% of the patients who were treated with physical therapy and exercises returned to work while 26% of those who underwent surgery returned to work. Permanent disability was more likely in the surgical patients (11%) compared to those without surgery (2%). Also, 76% of those who underwent surgery continued to use opiod medications after their operation and often at higher doses.
When you experience back pain, your best course of action will depend on how much pain you have and the cause. Although, you may have significant pain initially, this will eventually decrease. Once it does, you must get moving again. Significant evidence shows that passive treatments such as bed rest, heat, and medication only prolongs the back pain. We know that movement is good for your back. Movement increases the blood flow to the injured tissues which helps it to heal faster. It prevents the formation of scar tissue and harmful trigger points in the injured area. Do not stay on the couch or in bed for long periods of time when back pain appears. You may have to modify some of your daily activities to avoid re-injury, but get moving again as soon as you can.
Massage is Helpful
In addition to getting yourself moving again, you can Heal Faster with Massage. Massage therapy can help normalize the injured tissue and help you return quicker to your normal self. Massage can reduce the formation of scar tissue, increase blood flow to the injured tissue, reduce swelling, eliminate stiffness and improve mobility, and provide pain relief. Massage can improve the oxygen/nutrients to the tissues of your back. Not only are there good physical benefits, but there are many psychological benefits to massage and its ability to assist in your healing. Massage has been shown to alleviate the stress caused by the back pain. It can improve your concentration and energy levels which have been affected by the back pain. Massage will decrease the anxiety which will lead to better sleep quality. Your body must have sleep in order to heal. In fact, most of your healing will occur when you are sleeping.
Stretch and Strengthen
As your pain levels decrease with daily movement and massage, physical therapy will play an important role in teaching you how to stretch and strengthen your body to return to back to normal. The flexibility of your muscles and body is key for you to be able to move correctly and avoid further injury. The hip flexors and hamstrings are key muscles which should be stretched in addition to overall back/spine flexibility. Read more about effective stretches in the 5 Great Stretches for Lower Back Pain and Sciatic Nerve Pain blogs. Strengthening of your core, gluteal muscles, and quadriceps are also key in your recovery. Strong trunk, arm, and leg muscles provide for the support of you spinal joints. Your core is the center of everything which forms the base for all body movements. There are many ways to improve your core strength. Stability ball exercises can be very helpful and yoga is an excellent way to assist you with both strength and flexibility.
Yoga and Back Pain
Physical therapy programs that incorporate yoga into the treatments are quite effective. Yoga will help to increase strength in specific muscles and muscle groups. Many of the yoga poses gently strengthen your core which not only supports the body, but improves your posture as well. Yoga incorporates stretching and relaxation which reduces tension in the stress carrying muscles. It uses multi joint movements to stretch one area while strengthening another. One of the effective poses for back pain is the Upward Facing Bow Pose. This pose is a great example of how you can strengthen the legs, arms, and core while opening up the chest and stretching the back. It will increase blood flow into all areas of the body while focusing on proper breathing to increase oxygen into the body. The Upward Facing Bow Pose uses the entire body in one simple movement. It should be noted that this pose as with any new activity may take time to build up to.
Back pain is more than just a nuisance, it can severely limit your life. Conservative physical therapy treatment is the treatment of choice before more invasive procedures are taken. Physical therapy for back pain should focus on getting you moving as soon as possible, utilize massage techniques, and use yoga poses to stretch and strengthen your body. Be wary of physical therapy programs that use passive treatments such as heat, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation as these treatments have not been shown to have much therapeutic value. There are many other effective physical therapy treatments such as traction, joint mobilizations, and the 830Laser. At Flex Physical Therapy, we are experts and getting to the root cause of your back pain. We use to most cutting edge treatment available to get you back on your feet again. If you or someone you know is suffering from back pain, call us at 1-800-930-8803 and be pain free!