Physical therapy can be your best chance at reducing the amount of back pain you feel. While medication can help in the short term to reduce pain, you still need to think about the future and work towards the goal of being back pain free weeks, months, or even years from now.
Physical therapy is not just about stretching techniques and exercise. There are many other facets of physical therapy that most do not think of.
Passive Physical Therapy
Best used when there is an acute injury. An acute injury is occurs suddenly, you would begin to feel pain immediately or within hours of the injury. Cold therapy can help by reducing pain and swelling. It also helps by constricting the blood vessels and limiting the amount of internal bleeding that may be happening.There are many ways to go about using cold therapy, from ice cubes to gel packs and cold packs. You will want to ice the area for no longer then 10-15 minutes at a time and allow the skin to come back to room temperature before icing again.
Best used when there is a chronic injury. Chronic injuries are slow to develop, pain may come and go but it has been around for a long time. Heat therapy can help relax muscles that are sore or stiff, increase joint mobility and increase the amount of blood circulation to the injured site. Warm bathes, hot wet towels, hot packs or heating pads are all easy ways to help with pain. Be careful with applying heat to the skin as if it is too hot you could burn yourself. If you need to, use layers of cloth or a towel so that there is a barrier between the heat and your body. Heat therapy should never be used if there is any inflammation or swelling as it can make it worse.
This uses sound waves to penetrate through the skin and into the area that is injured. These sound waves heat up the area, increasing the amount of blood coming into that part of the body. This increase in blood helps to draw oxygen and nourishment to the area while also decreasing the cell waste or toxins.
A TENS unit is a small device that sends out an electrical current through electrodes that are placed on the skin. By doing this you can prevent pain signals from reaching the brain, it can also help by releasing endorphins that may help reduce pain.
Massage therapy can be used to reduce pain, relax sore or tense muscles and reduce swelling and stiffness in the joints. Massage therapy also increases blood circulation, this helps to promote faster healing.
There are many types of hydrotherapy that can be used, things like water spas, whirlpools, swimming pools or even your bath tub at home. Cold water can be used to reduce swelling or warm water can be used to increase blood flow and reduce the amount of back pain you may be feeling. When in something as large as a swimming pool you can combine aerobics and water as a way of exercising that supports the body and minimizes the effects of gravity on the joints. Very useful for those who are elderly, recovering from a surgery, injured or have joint problems.
Active Physical Therapy
It is very important to stretch the muscles, ligaments and tendons in the back to keep them strong and flexible. Stretching reduces the risk of injury and should be part of your daily routine along with exercise.
You should try to aim for 3-4 times a week and at least 30 minutes each time. Simple things such as walking, cycling or swimming can not only help strengthen your back but also condition your whole body. Excess weight and back pain can go hand and hand. Combine passive and active physical therapy along with core exercises for the best possible results.