The Benefits of Physiotherapy for Back Pain

Experiencing back pain? Wondering who you should see to help you?

You’re not alone and we can help you.

Our physios in Camberwell are trained to assess, diagnose and treat back pain and do so on a daily basis. For some people, this back pain can be a repetitive story, while for others it can come on as a single episode. Sometimes, back pain doesn’t discriminate between the older and the younger population, male or female, or physically active or inactive people.

Back pain can be debilitating and isolating, with time missed from work, social events missed out on or just your usual exercise regime. Seeking help as soon as you first recognise pain is vital in ensuring you have the safest and speediest recovery possible. Not to mention expert advice will ensure the likelihood of recurrence is much lower! Plus, physiotherapy exercises provide many benefits that will improve your life overall.

Identifying the cause of your back pain is important to determine which structures are contributing to your pain. Your pain may be coming from soft tissue (muscles or ligaments), neural structures (the nerves in our bodies), bone or even your internal organs. Your physiotherapist can help assess and determine the source of pain and then either proceed to treat the problem. Sometimes, this may mean a referral to another health professional including a doctor or other specialist to manage the symptoms.

How your physiotherapist can help:

  • Reassure your concerns on the impact and severity of your injury
  • Educate you on your diagnosis and contributing factors to your injury
  • Reduce pain & tightness coming from muscles
  • Restore joint range of movement to your skeletal system
  • Strengthen the weak muscles contributing to your injury with rehabilitation exercises
  • Educate you on how to self-manage or be aware of signs and symptoms of a flare-up
  • Guide your return to activity safely and efficiently

Along with education, your physiotherapy treatment may involve manual therapy. Manual therapy is the hands-on treatment that can include options including joint mobilisation, manipulation and massage and trigger point therapy. A very important adjunct to the manual therapy will almost always include some form of rehabilitation exercises. These will be aiming to improve your strength and flexibility, daily function (including things like walking). Depending on the severity of your pain, your physio may also suggest the short term use of a walking aid like a stick or crutches, and therefore may teach you the safest way to use these. 

In a new, acute episode of back pain, the focus of the session with your physio would usually be on reducing your pain, as well as finding the source of your pain. The pain may be coming from inflammatory reasons or otherwise.

This sharp, strong pain can be confronting if you have never experienced back pain before, and you can come to expect a lot of reassurance from your physio in that first session. As such, the first appointment will focus on reducing any acute muscle spasm and restoring range of movement that you have temporarily lost. Your physio will also try and address which things are making your pain worse, and after identifying these factors (like sitting, or standing, or walking down a steep hill), make a recommendation around changing these.

It is likely your physiotherapist will see you within the 1-2 days from that initial appointment. At this stage your pain may be starting to reduce once pain, and your physio is likely to continue further hands-on treatment. You are likely to have more normal range of movement from now, and this can be expected to continue for the coming days.

This is a key part of your rehabilitation because often as we wean off pain medications and as movement returns, people can be too enthusiastic with their return to normal activities. We need to make sure return to activity is still gradual and progressive. We need to be mindful of avoiding a flare up at this stage, or simply re-injury. In order to prevent a long-term relationship with back pain it is important to follow your physio’s advice and stay compliant with your appointments and rehabilitation so that you can ensure a full recovery.

In instances of chronic back pain, it is likely you have a had a long-standing history of specific with a potential diagnosis from a medical professional or different physiotherapist. Chronic back pain can stem from a previous acute injury, or just a slow and gradual build up of pain over time. In the case of many people with chronic back pain, they know their specific triggers and therefore are aware of ways to manage these.

Often, the best way that a flare up of symptoms can be prevented is through completing exercises or simple stretches on a daily basis. This can be nicely supplemented by the occasional “grease and oil change” maintenance manual therapy treatment from your physiotherapist.  Conversely, you may just be dealing with pain and thinking that is just now a part of your life. We would strongly refute that! There are both manual treatment and exercises that can help alleviate your pain and at improve your daily life.

Gone are the days of rest and forget with back pain. The research now suggests more strongly than ever that the best course of action is to seek professional help immediately, and stay moving. Your physiotherapist will be able to guide that movement and get you feeling human again.

Movement is definitely medicine and can often stave off the need for any pharmaceutical medication! In the medium to long-term, your physio may guide you towards a gym program or Clinical Pilates to facilitate your rehab. This can ensure your whole program is supervised, progressed and guided accordingly.

Again, the research tells us that this is the best solution for preventing recurrence of injury. If your adherence to the recommendations set down by your physio is good, your likelihood of recurrence is low and your long term health outcomes can be achieved!

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The Benefits of Physiotherapy for Back Pain