Frequent episodes of low back pain (those lasting between two and six weeks) are indications for possible physical therapy treatments. By completing physical therapy sessions and back pain exercises, patients should experience a decrease in back pain and an increase in muscle function. Physical therapy also educates patients on how to continue a maintenance program that can prevent further recurrences of pain. Dr. Siddiqi will assess your back condition and prior medical history to determine if physical therapy is a proper form of treatment for your pain.
Two types of therapy are common:
Passive Physical Therapy
Passive physical therapy focuses on decreasing pain and is considered passive because the procedures are done to the patient, not by the patient. Examples of passive therapies include:
Heat/ice packs for heat therapy and cold therapy
Both heat and ice help reduce muscle spasm and inflammation and are usually applied for 10-20 minutes once every two hours. These treatments are more useful during the first few days of a pain episode, rather than the later days. Additionally, these two therapies may be alternated throughout the course of treatment.
Iontophoresis is a process that delivers steroids through the skin using electrical currents. Once the steroids penetrate the skin, they produce an anti-inflammatory effect in the area of pain. This process is useful during acute episodes of pain.
TENS units for electrotherapy
A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) unit uses electrical stimulation to override painful signals being sent to the brain in an attempt to relieve lower back pain. If a patient responds well to a TENS trials, he or she may continue with the treatment at home for long-term low back pain relief.
Ultrasound is a form of deep heating in which sound waves are applied to the skin and penetrate the body's soft tissues. This therapy is best used in relieving acute pain and can also aid in tissue healing.
Active Physical Therapy
In addition to passive therapies, active physical therapy in the form of exercise also is critical for rehabilitation of the spine. Most active therapies include stretching and strengthening the back muscles and hamstring, as well as low-impact aerobic conditioning (walking, bicycling or swimming).
Approximately 15 to 20 minutes of dynamic lumbar stabilization should be done every other day to aid in strengthening the back muscles, and patients should get in the daily habit of stretching the hamstring. Aerobic exercises should be completed three times a week for 30-40 minutes, but on the other days muscle strengthening exercises can be done.
Dr. Siddiqi and his staff will help you plan an exercise and strengthening routine that best fits your needs.