• Lower Back Pain

  • If you have low back pain, you are not alone. At any given time, about 25% of people in the United States report having low back pain within the past 3 months. In most cases, low back pain is mild and disappears on its own. For some people, back pain can return or hang on, leading to a decrease in quality of life or even to disability.

    How Can a Physical Therapist Help?

    Your physical therapist will perform a thorough evaluation that includes:

    • A review of your health history.
    • Questions about your specific symptoms.
    • A thorough examination that includes assessing the quality and quantity of your movements, and any movement behaviors that might put you at risk for delayed recovery.
    • Tests to identify signs or symptoms that could indicate a serious health problem, such as broken bones or cancer.
    • Assessment of how you use your body at work, at home, during sports, and at leisure.

    For most cases of low back pain imaging tests, such as x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are not helpful for recovery. For example, in a recently published article comparing patients who received an MRI first vs physical therapy first for low back pain, the patients who received an MRI first spent on average $4,793 more (with similar outcomes in each group). If your physical therapist suspects that your low back pain might be caused by a serious health condition, the therapist will refer you to other health care professionals for further evaluation.

    Your physical therapist can help you improve or restore mobility and reduce low back pain—in many cases, without expensive surgery or the side effects of medications.

    If you are having low back pain right now:

    • Stay active, and do as much of your normal routine as possible (bed rest for longer than a day can actually slow down your recovery.)
    • If your pain lasts more than a few days or gets worse, schedule an appointment to see your physical therapist.

    Not all low back pain is the same, so your treatment should be tailored to for your specific symptoms and condition. Once the examination is complete, your physical therapist will evaluate the results, identify the factors that have contributed to your specific back problem, and design an individualized treatment plan for your specific back problem. Treatments may include:

    • Manual therapy, including spinal manipulation, to improve the mobility of joints and soft tissues
    • Specific strengthening and flexibility exercises
    • Education about how you can take better care of your back
    • Training for proper lifting, bending, and sitting; for doing chores both at work and in the home; and for proper sleeping positions
    • Assistance in creating a safe and effective physical activity program to improve your overall health
    • Use of ice or heat treatments or electrical stimulation to help relieve pain