Patients suffering from most types of low back pain are often referred for physical therapy for four weeks as an initial conservative (nonsurgical) treatment option before considering other more aggressive treatments, including back surgery. The goals of physical therapy are to decrease back pain, increase function, and teach the patient a maintenance program to prevent future back problems.
Common forms of physical therapy include:
- Passive physical therapy (modalities), which includes things done to the patient, such as heat application, ice packs and electrical stimulation. For example, a heating pad may be applied to warm up the muscles prior to doing exercising and stretching, and an ice pack may be used afterward to sooth the muscles and soft tissues.
- Active physical therapy, which focuses on specific exercises and stretching. For most low back pain treatments, active exercise is the focus of the physical therapy program.
2.This article focuses on active physical therapy and exercise as a means to help recover from back problems and prevent or minimize future flare-ups of low back pain.
Exercise Benefits for Low Back Pain
Lumbar spine (low back) stability is largely dependent on the supporting abdominal (stomach) and low back musculature. The abdominal muscles provide the initial stabilizing support through their ability to generate pressure within the abdomen which is exerted posteriorly on the spine, thus providing an anterior support column (from the front of the spine). The low back muscles stabilize the spine from the back and lead to posterior support. Simply stated, the bony spine and discs are surrounded by muscles, and the stronger these specific muscles are, the less stress is placed on the discs and joints of the spine. The patients should develop a ‘belt’ of muscle around their spine.