Back pain is the most common medical complaint and can be the most frustrating injury. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, 8 out of 10 people may experience back pain at some point in their life. Back pain causes more days away from work than any other condition. Factors contributing to low back pain include poor body mechanics, strenuous activity, trauma, degeneration, and sedentary lifestyle. There is good news though - back pain is treatable.
Many physical therapists use the McKenzie Method for neck and back pain. The McKenzie Method involves education and active participation of the patient in therapy and is trusted and used all over the world for back, neck and extremity problems. The McKenzie Method has become the gold standard of care for therapy.
A common perception is that the McKenzie Method involves a set of exercises that people can do on their own. While this is true, the McKenzie Method is really an overall program of assessment, treatment and prevention strategies - including exercise - that are usually best learned with a physical therapist who is trained in McKenzie.
Often, people with lower back problems have developed movement patterns during their day that aggravate their condition. Therefore, the emphasis of treating back pain is on education. Physical therapists can teach people proper body mechanics and how to perform activities throughout their day without re-injury. They also help people increase the strength and flexibility of their spine and offer information on lifestyle changes to prevent future problems.More often than not, those with a history of back pain are more likely to have a reoccurrence of back pain at some point in their life. Being able to manage symptoms and keep back pain at bay is key.
To gauge the effectiveness of the program, standardized outcome tools are used which measure functional abilities both at initial evaluation and program completion. Therapists can collect objective data to determine whether their patients are getting better in therapy. Measurement data is collected electronically and shared with all program participants and their physicians.
Almost everything you do and every move you make affects your back. Physical therapists try to help people understand the reasons for lower back problems, how to correct them, and how to protect their body's chief support - their spine.
Physical therapists warn that you should always consult with your physician for back pain that does not improve with rest, if you have pain after a fall or injury or if you experience numbness or tingling.
Strengthening your core and maintaining posture is important to managing back pain. Before considering drugs or surgery, physical therapy can help. Through body awareness and education, daily stretches and strengthening exercises, your physical therapist can help you manage your symptoms and reduce your back pain.
Editor's note: Jill Hrabinsky, PT, Cert.?MDT, is the Baraga County Memorial Hospital director of rehabilitation through U.P. Rehab.