Physical Therapy For Back Pain

by Gavin Morrison on November 17, 2014

Physical therapy has been proven through extensive medical research to be an effective treatment for back and neck pain, shoulder pain, knee pain and many other joint and muscle problems. Physical therapists treat patients in a physical therapy clinic that is set up for physical examinations, manual treatment (i.e. massage and stretching), therapeutic exercise and pain relief modalities such as electrical nerve stimulation, ultrasound, heat and ice therapy.

PTbackexamPhysical therapists are licensed healthcare professionals. They are required to have a masters or a doctorate degree in physical therapy from a university that has a medical science program. The entrance requirements for physical therapy programs are as stringent as most medical schools and require the same prerequisite courses. Once they have completed a three-year course of study in physical therapy they are required to take a national licensing exam that is recognized by the state they will be practicing in.

Physical therapists are trained in physical examination of the spine, nerves, joints and muscles, postural and gait (walking) evaluation and balance and neurological (nerve) testing. They also learn techniques such as massage therapy, manual muscle stretching, joint mobilization and medical exercise prescription. Other methods that therapists are trained in include, traction and decompressive techniques for spine problems, electro-nerve and muscle stimulation, ultrasound and bracing / taping techniques. Learning how to effectively educate patients about lifting mechanics and injury prevention is also part of their training. In certain cases physical therapists are specially trained to perform spinal manipulations comparable to chiropractic adjustments.

One of the unique aspects of physical therapy is that therapists regularly design custom exercise programs to be used by their patients at home or at their gym after their treatment has ended. These programs are designed to prevent re-injury in the future.

img_1590Physical therapists are also trained to evaluate and treat patients who have been in injured in auto accidents and work accidents. Therapists also work with athletes and post surgical patients.

Physical therapists most often work in conjunction with MDs and surgeons on a referral basis. Physicians will refer patients to physical therapy for painful conditions that involve joint, muscle and nerve. Therapists are also an integral part of the recovery process after surgeries. They will work with patients after spine, neck, shoulder, knee and ankle surgeries to ensure that the patient is able to get all of their strength, joint motion, balance and coordination back. When working with athletes they use specific training exercises designed to help the patient return to their particular sport or recreation.

In some states like Idaho, patients are able to seek treatment from a physical therapist without a physician referral. If a patient seeks physical therapy directly and has a problem that requires serious medical attention then the therapist will refer that patient to be evaluated by a qualified medical doctor before returning to physical therapy.

During a physical therapy evaluation the therapist uses muscle, nerve and joint tests along with postural and spinal analysis to determine the root cause of the patients pain. Things such as tight muscles and tendons, pinched nerves, restricted joints and postural problems are generally the major contributing factors. The therapist discusses their findings with the patient and formulates a plan of treatment that will address the patient’s problems.

Depending on the severity of the injury or painful condition physical therapy can take anywhere from 2 visits up to 6 months of therapy 3 times a week. Post surgical therapy is generally prescribed for 4-6 weeks after the surgery.

Alternative techniques may also be used by physical therapists that have special certifications. These techniques include Yoga, Pilates, Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique, acupuncture and other alternative therapies.

Anyone who suffers persistent pain in their back, joints or muscles will find a good physical therapist a Godsend.

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