Treatments for lower back pain
Cory Manton is a physical therapist at the Rehabilitation Center at Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz.
Question: What is the treatment for acute lower-back pain?
Answer: Symptoms of lower-back pain can vary in severity, irritability and location. Physical therapists have created three well-researched treatment classifications so they can best match treatment to a patient's signs and symptoms.
- Manipulation: Spinal manipulation is a quick stretch to the lumbar region that can help decrease pain and restore motion.
Patients who benefit from spinal manipulation include patients who have had pain for fewer than 16 days and those whose pain does not extend below the knee. Patients with stiffness in the lumbar spine region or abnormal motion at the hips also might benefit.
Most often, therapists will recommend several active range-of-motion exercises after spinal manipulation that most often can be done at home.
- Stabilization: If your pain is more like a sensation of bones or muscles "catching" or difficulty returning to an upright posture after bending over, chances are your physical therapist will recommend stabilization exercises.
Stabilization exercises are used to control lumbar spine pain that is associated with uncoordinated movement. By teaching the patient exercises that help contract the muscles around the spine, the patient may experience decreased pain.
- Specific exercise: For patients with sciatica, or low-back pain with leg pain that goes below the knee, specific exercises are necessary.
Specific exercises include extension exercises that are intended to reduce the leg pain. Patients with a diagnosis of spinal stenosis may have increased back pain and leg pain with sustained standing and walking. There symptoms may improve with sitting. These patients' specific exercise prescriptions would emphasize flexion exercises that would reduce their symptoms.
Just by describing the pain in the low back, a patient and physical therapist can determine the best classification of pain to create a treatment plan that helps.
Reviewed November 2010