If you have been suffering with lower back pain and reported it to your doctor, then he or she likely ran a few tests to make sure your pain wasn't caused by an acute injury or illness. If the tests came back "all clear," then your doctor may have then recommended that you obtain physical therapy, yet didn't explain exactly how the physical therapist will help you relieve your pain. Many people who have never had physical therapy have misconceptions about how it works, and you may have some of them too.
Read on to learn about two common misconceptions about physical therapy for lower back pain and the truth behind how physical therapy can truly help relieve your pain for good.
Misconception #1: You Can Just Find Back Strengthening Exercises Online and Perform Them on Your Own Instead
Like many people, you have likely heard that physical therapists tend to lead patients through exercises, but don't understand how these exercises differ from those you can perform right at home or at a local gym. The truth is that these exercises are carefully prescribed to help strengthen the exact muscles in your body (and not just in your back) that you need to strengthen in order to eliminate your back pain.
Low back pain is often the result of sitting, standing, and walking for years with improper posture. When you live your daily life with improper posture, each of your individual muscles tailor their strength to support the position you have your back in the most; the muscles that support poor posture are strengthened, while those that support your poor posture become stronger. Your physical therapist will help you strengthen the muscles needed to encourage your spine to stay in the "neutral spine" position, which is a position that will take pressure off the nerves in your back that are causing your pain now.
To encourage your back to stay in neutral spine position without effort from you, the first step requires effort, and that is performing exercises as your physical therapist keeps a close eye on your posture to ensure it stays in neutral position at all times while you are performing them.
If you are like many people who have poor posture, you likely don't realize it is poor and the root cause of your lower back pain. Your physical therapist will have to teach you what good posture feels like and keep an eye on you throughout all of the exercises you perform in their office to make sure you maintain proper posture for them to eventually help eliminate your lower back pain.
Misconception #2: Physical Therapy Only Involves Exercises
While carefully prescribed muscle-strengthening and flexibility-encouraging exercises are typically involved in most physical therapy sessions, physical therapists realize that it can take some time to strengthen the muscles that promote good posture and that people with lower back pain do need therapies that provide quick pain relief in the meantime. Most offer a variety of complementary pain-relief and inflammation-reducing therapies for people with lower back pain, including ultrasound therapy, electrical stimulation (TENS is one form of electrical stimulation), and spinal traction.
When you meet with your physical therapist to form a treatment plan, discuss your options for quick pain relief treatments before or after your exercises are performed, so you can get the immediate relief you need along with the long-term relief of your pain that your exercises will provide.
If you have developed lower back pain, or have been living with it for years, and your primary care physician referred you to a physical therapist, then forget any misconceptions about physical therapy and realize that it can truly help relieve your pain both now and in the future.