Dr. Paxton Clark is an expert in musculoskeletal conditions having participated in specialized low back pain training. He received his doctorate in physical therapy a the prestigious School of Health Professions at Texas Tech University.
He has given expert advice on back pain in the guest blog post.
Physical therapy is the best option for treating low back pain during any stage of treatment. Most of the time, acute (new) back pain is mechanical in nature and typically caused by poor body mechanics that we're all subjected to every day. Sometimes, these episodes can come and go before you know it, as back pain often resolves itself on its own. However, if left untreated, back pain will most likely return at some point. During your evaluation, a physical therapist will help identify things in your life that can contribute to your pain. Your physical therapist will help you abolish your current symptoms, show you different strategies that you can incorporate every day, and most importantly - prevent the back pain from returning.
Obviously, I’m a physical therapist, so I’m partial towards conservative treatment... But here is some information I like to share with my patients:
You, the patient (not the physical therapist/physician/chiropractor)are the key to treating your back pain.
We don't want a patient to have to come to our office for relief any time they have pain
Chiropractic care can be very effective in managing back pain. Chiropractors are experts in manipulating and adjusting the spine. This is beneficial, but it doesn’t allow you the independence to manage your symptoms yourself.
Typically acute back pain is caused by the way we sit at our desks, wash the dishes, vacuum the house, or drive our cars. Injections treat chemical issues, not mechanical issues.
For people with back pain, research has shown conservative treatment has better long-term outcomes than more invasive interventions.
Conservative management empowers a patient to overcome their pain and return to daily life without worrying about hardware, incisions, scar tissue, infection, etc. Additionally, conservative management helps people become more conscious of body positioning and demonstrate less fear of movements.
A back brace isn't a valid long-term option because your muscles surrounding your spine will become weak and dependent on external support
X-rays and MRIs can sometimes do more harm than good for back pain. As I've mentioned, back pain is usually mechanical in nature. Studies have shown that asymptomatic individuals can have significant stenosis, bone spurs, disc degeneration, etc. that appear on x-rays and MRIs. It can be scary to learn that your spine can show these signs when it’s often normal wear and tear that occurs with time.
PT is significantly cheaper than surgery, imaging (aka "expensive selfies"), or never-ending adjustments by the chiropractor.
You’ll be able to better manage symptoms in future episodes, making it a good investment
Fight the opioid crisis
Your physical therapist will help you manage your pain without dealing with the side-effects or risking an addiction to opioids. Pain medication is helpful for some conditions in short-term management. Just as back pain can become chronic, so can the need for opioids. These drugs are only masking the issue and aren't addressing the reason for your symptoms.
Patients often experience significant improvements in symptoms right away.
If we discover something in your examination that warrants further investigation from another medical professional, you will promptly be given information on the next step and sent in the right direction
At the very least...
If your back pain isn't responding to therapy, and you've had enough of this back pain, and you're ready to call the surgeon...
The best indicator of how much strength or mobility you'll achieve following surgery is how you're doing prior to the surgery.
Your post-op rehab will be much easier if you've participated in "pre-hab".
Give physical therapy a try. Think about the potential end-results of your treatment: Worst case scenario - you tried PT and didn't reach your goals, but you're more prepared for the next step. Best case scenario - you reach your goals, you've empowered yourself, you know what to do to prevent daily back issues, and you saved tons of money. I may be partial, but that sounds pretty rationale.
Huge thanks to Dr. Paxton Clark, PT, DPT for sharing his words of wisdom about back pain.
If you are 40+ and have nagging back pain and would like to avoid surgery, painkillers, and injections then call, text, or email us today to see how we can help.
Dr. Dalin Hansen, PT, DPT
Passionate practitioner dedicated to empowering others to take control of their health.