Early Physical Therapy for Acute Low Back Pain

Annual Bone & Joint Section

Early intervention through physical therapy can promote healing and restoration while saving you time and money.

By Lucy Morris


The Prevalence of Low Back Pain

Would you guess that low back pain is the second leading cause of doctor visits, just after the common cold? In fact, in many physical therapy clinics, low back pain is the most common diagnosis, affecting nearly 85-90% of Americans at some point or another. That’s because everyday activities, like bending forward, lifting heavy items, and sitting with bad posture, put a strain on the ligaments and muscles in your back. And not only is the pain common – it can also be debilitating.


The Repercussions

Unfortunately, discomfort isn’t the only downside. Acute low back pain is the leading cause of lost time at work, and it can lead to costly imaging tests and procedures, as well as an over-reliance on opioid medications in some cases. In fact, low back pain is one of the most common reasons for an opioid prescription today. Given the prevalence of opioid abuse in the country, extended prescription usage is not recommended. Not to mention, there are questions as to whether opioids can even effectively treat low back pain. When natural treatment options are available, they should be explored.


How Early Physical Therapy Can Help

Physical therapy can help relieve symptoms and restore function in many cases of acute low back pain, especially when started early. A physical therapist can perform tests to identify where the pain is coming from and then design a custom treatment plan for you. Physical therapists are specially trained in evaluating and treating orthopedic, neurological, and cardiovascular conditions.

Depending on the cause and location of your pain, your physical therapist may recommend passive therapies, which include everything from dry needling and joint mobilizations to electrical stimulation and heat/ice packs, and active physical therapy techniques like range of motion exercises, strengthening exercises, pain relief exercises, and low-impact aerobic conditioning.

Early physical therapy, which is considered within 30 days of pain onset, can help sufferers in numerous ways. First, it can reduce costs associated with care by identifying and treating the problem earlier. In Tennessee, you can access a physical therapist directly, without the need of a physician referral. Physical therapy can also reduce or eliminate the need for prescription medications, which can become addictive. Lastly, it can help prevent future recurrences of pain by promoting healing and restoring function. HS

Dr. Jeremy Shook President Excel Rehab and Sports expert opinion on early physical therapy for acute low back pain

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