Patients seeking relief from neck or back pain may be surprised to find that non-surgical treatment may be an option for them. There are many conditions affecting the spine that respond well to physical therapy. The physician may recommend the patient try physical therapy before undergoing more invasive treatments. So, let’s examine how physical therapy may help.
Stabilization of the spine
Physical therapy exercises help build strength and flexibility. This may serve to stabilize the spine and prevent further injury. Lumbar stabilization exercises will strengthen the muscles in the low back that support the spine. As the muscles get stronger, they hold the spine in proper position and take the pressure off the spine. A typical regimen may include a variety of stretches, rotational stretches, exercises to strengthen the core muscles, and exercises using stretch bands. Spinal conditions that may improve with physical therapy include lumbar spinal stenosis, lumbar sprains and strains, bulging disc, and sciatica.
Cervical traction may be beneficial to patients suffering from neck pain. The traction pulls the head away from the neck to stretch the vertebrae and relieve compression. Cervical traction is often prescribed for degenerative disc disease, cervical spondylosis, herniated disc, and pinched nerves.
Relieving pain and promoting healing
Exercises that strengthen the back help soft tissue injuries, such as torn ligaments, to heal. Learning to maintain good posture and developing proper back support reduces back and neck pain. Patients who must sit or stand for long hours due to their jobs can learn how to properly support the back muscles and reduce their level of pain. Proper neck and back support can lessen compression of nerves and even reduce the frequency and severity of headaches. Spinal manipulation by a physical therapist or chiropractor may help to restore function, improve mobility or range of motion, and alleviate pain.
Passive therapies that may relieve pain typically include heat or ice packs, ultrasound treatments, and TENS therapy (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). During TENS therapy, low voltage electric current is carried through small electrodes to stimulate nerves and reduce pain and inflammation. Dry needling is another treatment that may be prescribed. This treatment targets muscular trigger points to reduce tightness, increase blood flow to the area, and reduce pain. There is minimal discomfort to the patient. Dry needling is often used to treat sports related injuries.
After the acute symptoms subside, patients are encouraged to continue with their exercises at home to maintain the benefits of their treatments. Physical therapy treatments may help many patients manage their pain without the use of prescription or over-the-counter medications.
The physicians at Atlanta Brain and Spine Care can evaluate your condition and determine whether physical therapy is the right course of treatment.