Neck and back pain can interfere with many everyday activities. It can affect a patient’s ability to work, play sports, and do their favorite activities. When neck or back pain strikes, it can be scary because you want to avoid surgery at all costs.
The good news is that not all neck and back pain requires surgery. In fact, people have seen improvements with conservative spine therapy like physical therapy. It’s one of the least invasive options for neck and back pain.
What Can Physical Therapy Treat?
Typically, after reviewing the patient’s history, imaging results, and diagnostic tests, your doctor may suggest physical therapy. Doctors have recommended physical therapy to treat the following:
- Chronic pain
- Herniated disc
- Disc degeneration
- Joint pain
Physical therapy can treat other types of problems and pain. In some cases, the patient may undergo physical therapy after surgery to restore function and strengthen muscles. This can speed recovery and reduce complications.
Active Physical Therapy for Help Back and Neck Pain
You may receive a recommendation for a specific physical therapist from your doctor. At your first appointment, the physical therapist will likely do an assessment. In an assessment, the therapist measures your range of motion to set a baseline.
After reviewing the doctor’s notes and your case history, the physical therapist will create a personalized plan for active physical therapy. This kind of therapy involves the patient doing exercises and stretches. A personalized plan usually includes the following goals:
- Decrease pain and stiffness
- Increase range of motion
- Strengthen muscles and support systems
- Implement strategies to prevent pain recurrence
Even if the pain doesn’t go away, physical therapy offers value in helping bolster the area surrounding the area causing neck and back pain. It can improve movement and function in the patient’s everyday activities. The therapist will measure the range of motion again in the last session of physical therapy and sometimes at the halfway point.
Other Noninvasive Options for Back and Neck Pain
The doctor or physical therapist may recommend passive physical therapy to go with active physical therapy. These treatment options don’t require the patient to do any exercises or stretches.
The following are examples of passive physical therapy:
- Cold or heat therapy: Cold packs can help reduce swelling and pain. Heat packs can increase blood flow to loosen stiff muscles. In some cases, the patient may alternate between cold and heat packs.
- Electrotherapy: The patient wears a device that sends electric pulses through wires to the area where there’s pain. It can alter pain signals or stimulate muscle contractions to allow the area to heal. The most common option is the use of a TENS unit.
- Massage: Like heat therapy, a massage can loosen tight muscles to ease pain.
- Ultrasound: A healthcare provider applies gel to the affected area and moves a handheld device around the area. The device sends soundwaves into the tissues, which can relax the muscles and reduce pain.
Upon completing physical therapy, the therapist may advise the patient to continue doing the exercises. This helps prevent pain from returning. Other potential conservative therapies for neck and back pain include pain management, weight management, injections, an exercise program, or a combination. To find out the best option for you, schedule an appointment with a back and spine doctor.
If you have questions, contact us or call 214-823-2052. With offices in Addison and Dallas, our team serves residents in Dallas, Addison, Plano, Frisco, Garland, and other cities in the DFW metroplex.