How Physical Therapy Helps Back and Neck Pain
One of the most common physical ailments reported by the general population is ongoing pain in the back and neck. Many studies have shown that over 90% of people will experience pain in these areas of the spine at some time in their life. This can be caused by many things, including injuries from falls, sports, auto and work-related accidents, age-related degeneration, arthritis, repetitive bending, lifting, and twisting activities, and more. If the cause of the pain is left untreated, the damage can potentially accumulate and the pain spread into the head, hips, groin area, arms, legs, and feet. Eventually, the damage might become so severe that surgery is the only option. Research has shown that physical therapy is an effective primary treatment for neck pain and back pain, providing relief from suffering, halting further damage, and promoting tissue healing.
Goals of Physical Therapy
Physical therapy for neck and back conditions is focused on the various structures that give support to the spine including muscles, ligaments, and tendons. The goals of treatment include:
- Educating the patient on proper posture, ergonomic practices and principles, and strengthening and stretching exercises to protect the spine
- Reducing pain and inflammation
- Restoring flexibility and mobility
- To return the patient to normal everyday activities
Treatments Used By Physical Therapists
Specific treatment methods that physical therapists use to treat back and neck pain include:
- Deep tissue massage – Used to relieve chronic tension in the muscles and other soft tissues caused by stress through direct rubbing, kneading, and pressure.
- Heat and cold therapy – Using direct heat on an injured area increases the flow of blood and delivers more oxygen and necessary nutrients to the tissues. Improved circulation also helps to remove waste and facilitates healing. Cold therapy does the opposite, slowing circulation to reduce pain, inflammation, and muscle spasms.
- Traction – Stretching and manipulating the spine to reduce pain and increase mobility. Can be done manually or with a mechanical device.
- Ultrasound – Another way to increase blood circulation to relieve cramps, spasms, swelling, pain, and stiffness. It works by directing sound waves deep into muscles and tissues to create a low heat.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation – Also known simply as TENS or TNS, this therapy uses a range of electrical currents to help reduce painful muscle spasms, and research has shown that it can also boost the production of endorphins, the natural painkillers of the body. There are also TENS machines that patients can use for home treatments.
Active physical therapy treatments for back pain and neck pain involve learning and practicing a variety of exercises to increase strength, flexibility, stability, and range of motion. An active therapy program will be tailored to a patient’s particular needs as determined by an analysis of their level of health and health history.
Physical therapy performed by trained and qualified health professional has proven to be a highly effective way to alleviate back pain and neck pain and to address the associated loss of mobility. It can also reduce or eliminate the need to use opioids and other painkillers, and prevent a condition from progressing to the point where surgery is necessary. It should be the first resource for those suffering from these conditions.
At Kleinpeter Physical Therapy, we can help relieve back and neck pain following an accident or surgery. Contact us today for a consultation to help you start the road to recovery!