Recently a dear patient of mine gave me a cutout of Dr. K’s newspaper column advising a patient with back pain to try physical therapy first. Doctor K is a health-oriented newspaper column that runs weekdays in hundreds of newspapers. The column is presented by Harvard Health Publications. I’d like to expand on this and the reason why physical therapy works.
Back pain will affect eight out of ten people at some point in their lives. There are various causes of back pain and treatment is often dictated by the cause.
Conservative treatments such as pain relievers and physical therapy are often the first line of defense; although some causes are believed to be best treated surgically.
One such cause is spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the opening for the spinal cord inside the vertebrae. The narrowing of the spinal canal can put pressure on spinal nerves, causing pain. New research is questioning if spinal decompression is really the gold standard of treatment or if conservative care is just as effective.
In a recent study, participants were divided into two groups. One group received surgery to alleviate pressure on the spinal nerves and the other received six weeks of physical therapy. The interventions performed by the physical therapy group included instruction on lumbar flexion exercises, general conditioning exercises such as stationary cycling or treadmill walking, lower extremity strengthening exercises, and patient education to avoid postures involving hyperextension of the lumbar spine. Results demonstrated that at the two-year mark, both groups had very similar outcomes.
If you are experiencing back pain, physical therapy should be considered as an equally effective, less risky, and much less costly first treatment option to the alternative of surgery. This conservative treatment includes gentle, hands-on alignment of tissues and structures, along with education of specific rehabilitative exercises and lifestyle modification suggestions tailored for the specific cause of your back pain.
Michele S Jang, PT is a physical therapist who likes to look outside the box. She has been a physical therapist for over 20 years and has extensive training in manual therapy or the use of hands to help rehabilitate the body. Michele has been an instructor both in the United States and abroad. She offers Free Consults on Tuesday afternoons. Michele also has a team of therapists at Spirit Winds who offer an array of expertise on exercise, fall prevention, foot and shoe assessments, body mechanics and proper breathing technique to increase awareness and healing. Michele can be reached at 805 543-5100 or [email protected]