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Physical Therapy treatments for common back conditions

Updated: Oct 13

AAPT detects weak areas and where the primary problem is coming from.


Back Sprain or Strain


It can be quite easy to sprain or strain your back. A sprain refers to an overstretching injury of your ligaments in your spine, whereas a strain refers to an overstretching injury to your muscles. There are hundreds of small muscles in the spine, which guide the intricate movements of each bone and multi-level joints. This delicate ballet of movement can get into trouble when heavy lifting is involved.


The majority of people sprain or strain their back when they combine lifting with twisting. The best way to avoid an injury to the low back is to use your legs when lifting, bending at the knees and keeping your back fairly straight. If you have to turn while lifting, move your feet, otherwise the strain of lifting while twisting can cause injury.


Tearing of the tissues occurs during a sprain / strain. While this is often not a full complete tear, the resulting damage can cause significant swelling and pain to occur deep in the back. Typical healing times can take at least 6-12 weeks for complete healing.


How physical therapy and dry needling helps back sprains and strains


Physical therapy is very important in your recovery from a back sprain / strain. The sooner we can see you, the better. After the injury, it is important for you to receive therapy to reduce the inflammation process as quickly as possible. Often, the root cause of the problem is limited motion in the hips or pelvis and even mid-back which causes abnormal forces in the low back.


Our therapists work with you to loosen any restricted areas, improve movement, quickly reduce your pain and strengthen your core muscles to prevent injury. Our dry needling method is the most effective form of getting rid of tight, painful or hypersensitive muscles and increasing movement patterns. The goal of dry needling is to help the body relax and restore nervous system output at locations of imbalance. By doing this, the muscles will respond appropriately, which will allow for improved functionality and decreased pain.We educate our patients on how to “release” the tension and stress restoring normal movement, relieving pain, and reducing your risk of further tissue damage.

It is vital that you complete a full course of therapy to ensure that you don’t hurt your back again. Studies have shown that people who do not properly retrain their core muscles after a sprain / strain injury are more likely to re-injure their back again.


Low Back Pain


Low back pain is one of the most common conditions seen by physicians across the country. It is said that over 80% of people will suffer some sort of low back pain during their lifetime. Low back pain can occur for a variety of reasons, but typically all have one or more of the following factors:

  • Poor motion and mobility

  • Spinal, abdominal or hip weakness

  • Poor coordination of the spinal, abdominal and pelvic muscles

While there are many items to mask low back pain, such as medication, it is important to address the true causes of low back pain. Most low back pain is caused by the 3 factors above. When your spinal joints and muscles don’t move properly, tremendous strain occurs in your low back. This causes irritation and inflammation, which build up over time. Typically, low back pain suffers will have more pain after sitting or lying down for prolonged periods, such as getting up from a chair or first thing in the morning after sleeping. With severe pain, reaching or bending down for objects can be limited.

If pain is felt more with prolonged standing or walking, this can be a result of significant hip or spinal weakness, again causing strain to the low back. With weakness in the spinal, abdominal or hip muscles, the amount of force transferred to the back with everyday activities increases. With bending down, the knees are often not used properly, and the muscles of the spine have to do extra work. This sets up the person for injury with lifting or even something as simple as bending down to tie one's shoes.


How physical therapy helps lower back pain


Physical therapy is one of the best choices to treat low back pain. By addressing the three main issues, your normal back movement and strength can be restored. Our physical therapists focus on your posture, spinal mobility, strength, flexibility and the way you move your body (body mechanics). As we observe and measure these indicators, we can detect weak areas and evaluate where your primary problem is coming from.

A thorough plan is then worked out to address your core issues and relieve your low back pain quickly. This allows you to have fast pain relief, improving your spinal range of motion and body strength. We also focus on prevention of future injuries and educate you on proper poster and body mechanic techniques. If you are suffering with low back pain, call us today for fast back pain relief that will get you back to your favorite activities quickly!


Mid back pain


Mid back pain refers to pain in the “thoracic” spine. This is the area from the shoulders down to the mid back area. Pain in this area can be for a variety of reasons, but typically occurs from poor posture or a forward slouched posture. With this posture, your back muscles stretch out, causing weakness.


Pain can often feel like a burning or sometimes shooting pain to the mid back area. At times, pain can even feel like it is radiating under the shoulder blade. However, with most mid back pain, it can be difficult to really pinpoint the area it is hurting.


How physical therapy helps


Physical therapy is very important in treating mid back pain. Our physical therapists work with you to discover spinal areas that may not be moving ideally. This limitation in movement can cause strain on the sections above and below that affected area. By improving spinal joint mobility, soothing sore muscles and restoring posture, your mid back pain can be relieved quite quickly.


We then educate you on proper strengthening and postural techniques to maintain your gains in therapy. Call us today to discover how we can relieve your mid back pain quickly and return you to a pain-free life.



Spinal Arthritis

Spinal Arthritis is a very common area for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The low back takes a tremendous strain throughout our lifetime, supporting the body, moving, sitting and repetitively bending. In addition to these contributing factors, arthritis can also be affected by genetics, age, previous injuries, diet and exercise.


With abnormal forces on the back, the cartilage on the joints at each level of the spine can rub down causing even wear, build up of bone and eventually bone on bone rubbing. This can result in painful movement of the spinal joints and chronic, achy pain in the low back. Much like an arthritic knee, the spinal joints are helped through restoring natural movement, improving support from the spinal muscles and proper posture.


Spinal Stenosis

Spinal Stenosis is a condition that typically goes hand in hand with spinal arthritis. Spinal stenosis refers to a narrowing of the central spinal canal or the canals where the nerves exit the spine to the lower legs (called foramen). These canals are made up of overlapping spinal bones (vertebrae) over another. With degeneration of the spinal joints, collapsing of the disc height or abnormal bone growth, the canals can narrow. This leads to rubbing and even pressure on the nerves, which can cause a multitude of symptoms.


How physical therapy helps spinal stenosis


Physical therapy can have a very positive effect on patients with spinal arthritis and spinal stenosis. While our therapists cannot revert your arthritis degeneration, we can restore more natural movement to the spinal joints, improve flexibility to increase joint fluid circulation, improve spinal muscle strength and educate you on correct posture and prevention techniques.


The result is that you can do more, with less pain. Often, patients report significant reduction in pain and improvement in daily activities from just a few short weeks of physical therapy.

Herniated or Bulging Disc


A disc is a jelly like, fluid filled sac that acts as a cushion between the bones of your neck (vertebrae). Your discs change as you age, drying out and becoming more brittle. In addition, as the discs dry out with age, the change in height between the vertebrae decreases, causing changes in posture and function. In younger adults, the center of the disc (nucleus) is held in place by many rings of the disc (picture a cross section of a tree trunk). With minor or major injuries, poor posture and strain, these rings can rupture allowing a pressing outward of the disc nucleus. Finally, as the nucleus reaches the outer edges, the disc can begin to bulge, which in turn can rub and irritate nerve roots exiting your spine.


In more severe cases, the disc can become herniated, which further presses into the spaces where nerves are exiting. Symptoms can range from localized pain, to numbness / tingling to a specific part of the shoulder, arm or hands. In more severe cases complete lack of sensation, muscle weakness and paralysis of an area of the upper extremity can occur. Changes in posture, strength and range of motion can all affect the positioning of the disc and how much bulging or herniation is occurring.

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