top of page

Back Pain Basics - What Is Physical Therapy?

Back pain is a universal experience, with nearly 80% of individuals encountering it at some point in their lives. It shows up in various forms,sometimes appearing as a mild, nagging discomfort, othertimes announcing itself as a severe, debilitating pain.

Understanding the basics of back pain is the first step in embarking on a journey toward relief and recovery. This article takes a look at one of the key treatments for this condition - physical therapy.

Low back pain affects most people at some point in their lives

Understanding Back Pain

At its core, back pain often refers to discomfort felt anywhere along the spine – from the neck (cervical spine) to the mid-back (thoracic spine) and down to the lower back (lumbar spine).

There are quite a few different causes of back pain, ranging from muscle strains and ligament sprains to more complex issues like herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or degenerative conditions. These conditions can be attributed to a combination of factors, including:

  • age

  • lifestyle

  • occupation

  • underlying medical conditions

low back pain can negatively impact many areas of our lives

How Back Pain Affects Our Lives

The impact of back pain extends far beyond the physical realm. It can disrupt sleep, limit our mobility, and impede everyday activities. For many people, it can even lead to emotional and psychological distress. Recognizing the multifaceted nature of back pain is key if we want to know how best to treat it.

While back pain is incredibly common, it's important to note that it is not a one-size-fits-all condition. Each individual's experience with back pain is unique, influenced by factors like genetics, lifestyle, and overall health. As such, a personalized approach to treatment is not just a "nice to have" - it's essential.

Until we understand each individual's experience of back pain we can't possible know how to treat it. Most treatments end up focusing on general treatment options, but physical therapy allows healthcare providers to get to know their clients and formulate a plan just for them. The result - better results and quicker healing.

LivaFortis looks at how physical therapy is used for treating low back paintreating low back pain

The Role of Physical Therapy

In the realm of back pain management, physical therapy is recognized as one of the most effective and dynamic treatments available.

Unlike passive interventions such as medication or surgery, physical therapy takes a more active approach, empowering individuals to play an integral role in their own recovery. In basic terms - physical therapy doesn't work if you don't put in the effort.

One of the things that makes physical therapy so successful for treating back pain is that it is about more than just alleviating symptoms. Physical therapy uses a comprehensive strategy that is aimed at identifying and addressing the root causes of a person's pain and dysfunction. By doing so, physical therapy's goal is to restore not only mobility and function but also to enhance overall spinal health.

Physical therapy addresses the underlying causes of low back pain.

Physical Therapy - A Whole New Approach To Healing

One of the key differentiators of physical therapy is its focus on functional movement. Rather than simply targeting specific muscles or areas of discomfort, physical

therapists evaluate how the entire musculoskeletal system functions as a whole.

This approach allows for a more nuanced and tailored approach to treatment, addressing any imbalances or deficiencies that may be contributing to back pain. It looks at movement patterns and habits that could be causing long term problems with movement or posture - ultimately leading to low back pain.

Studies and clinical guidelines consistently endorse physical therapy as a primary intervention for back pain. Its effectiveness lies in its ability to promote healing, strengthen supportive muscles, and improve flexibility and range of motion.

What's more, physical therapy equips individuals with valuable tools and exercises they can incorporate into their daily lives. These tips help people learn ways of preventing or managing future flare-ups of low back pain.

Physical therapy can correct the movement patterns that can lead to low back pain

What To Expect From Physical Therapy Treatment for Back Pain

When you first start physical therapy for your low back pain your PT will begin with a comprehensive assessment. Your physical therapist should take the time to understand your medical history, your lifestyle, and any specific concerns you might have related to your back pain. This initial step is essential if your provider is going to personalize your plan for the best outcomes.

After the assessment, your therapist will guide you through a series of movements and tests to evaluate your range of motion, strength, and any areas of discomfort. These observations will help them gain a deeper understanding of the underlying issues contributing to your back pain. It is important to share any concerns with your therapist so they know how bad your pain is.

A thorough assessment is key for a personalized PT plan

With this valuable information in hand, your therapist will work with you to design a personalized treatment plan. This plan will outline the specific exercises, stretches, and techniques that will be incorporated into your sessions.

Remember, your input is invaluable; don't hesitate to communicate your preferences and any concerns you may have. Fear avoidance is a real problem and if you are worried about doing your exercises there is a good chance you won't do them at all and you won't get better.

stretching is a key part of physical therapy for back pain

Components of Physical Therapy for Back Pain

Physical therapy for back pain is based on many things including:

  • exercise & stretching

  • manual therapy

  • posture and ergonomics education

  • pain management techniques

  • patient education and self care

  • progress monitoring

staying active can help prevent low back pain

Exercise and Stretching:

Regular, targeted exercises play a pivotal role in strengthening the muscles that support your spine. Your therapist will guide you through a series of movements designed to improve flexibility, enhance core stability, and alleviate pain. These exercises are tailored to your current abilities and will be progressively adjusted as you progress in your therapy.

Manual Therapy:

One of the hallmarks of physical therapy is hands-on manual techniques. These may include gentle spinal manipulation, mobilization of joints, soft tissue massage, and myofascial release. Manual therapy is administered by skilled therapists and is instrumental in reducing pain, improving range of motion, and promoting tissue healing.

Posture training can help with low back pain management.

Posture and Ergonomics Education:

Understanding how to maintain proper posture during daily activities is crucial in preventing future instances of back pain. Your therapist will provide guidance on ergonomics, helping you optimize your workspace and daily routines to minimize strain on your back.

Pain Management Techniques:

Physical therapists employ a range of modalities to manage pain and promote healing. This may include heat or cold therapy, ultrasound, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), and other advanced techniques. These modalities are integrated as needed to complement your treatment plan.

patient education is a key component to physical therapy for low back pain.

Patient Education and Self-Care:

Empowering people to take an active role in their recovery is a cornerstone of physical therapy. Your therapist will equip you with practical knowledge and exercises you can incorporate into your daily routine. This education empowers you to continue making progress even outside of your therapy sessions.

Progress Monitoring and Adjustments:

As you progress through your physical therapy journey, your therapist will closely monitor your response to treatment. Regular follow-up sessions serve as checkpoints to assess improvements, address any concerns, and make necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.

During your physical therapy sessions, your therapist will reevaluate your range of motion, strength, and any lingering discomfort. They may introduce new exercises or modify existing ones to ensure that your treatment continues to align with your evolving needs. This dynamic approach is a hallmark of physical therapy, allowing for a tailored and effective path to recovery.

Remember, open communication with your therapist is crucial during this phase. If you experience any changes in your symptoms or have specific goals in mind, don't hesitate to share them. Your feedback helps your therapist to fine-tune your treatment plan, adjusting your plan along the way, maximizing its effectiveness and ensuring you're on track to reaching your goals.

hydration is one healthy habit that can prevent back pain

Lifestyle Changes for Back Pain Management

While physical therapy is a pivotal component of back pain management, it's complemented by proactive lifestyle adjustments. Incorporating these changes into your daily routine can significantly enhance the efficacy of your treatment and promote long-term spinal health.

  1. Maintaining a Healthy Weight: Maintaining a healthy body weight reduces excess stress on your spine. Adopting a balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity can contribute to weight management and overall well-being.

  2. Staying Active: Regular, low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, or yoga can help strengthen the muscles supporting your spine. These activities promote flexibility, improve posture, and reduce the risk of future back pain episodes.

  3. Avoiding Prolonged Sitting: Sitting for extended periods can strain your back. Incorporate regular breaks, stand or stretch, and consider investing in ergonomic furniture to support a spine-friendly posture.

  4. Managing Stress: Chronic stress can exacerbate back pain. Engage in relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or mindfulness to alleviate both physical and emotional tension.

  5. Prioritizing Sleep: Quality sleep is crucial for tissue repair and overall well-being. Invest in a supportive mattress and practice good sleep hygiene habits for restful nights.

  6. Ergonomics in Daily Activities: Whether at work or home, prioritize ergonomics. Maintain proper posture, adjust furniture to your needs, and use supportive tools to minimize strain on your back.

By integrating these lifestyle changes into your routine, you're actively contributing to your back pain management. These adjustments, coupled with the guidance of your physical therapist, form a powerful combination for sustained relief.

Digital physical therapy is making the treatment more accessible to people

What If You Can't Afford Physical Therapy?

Sadly, not everyone can afford physical therapy. Some people don't have health insurance, others have plans that only offer a few sessions, and others still have co-pays that put physical therapy out of reach for them.

Digital physical therapy companies are leveraging technology to make physical therapy more affordable, as well as more accessible to people. Using telehealth technology and special sensors like motion-tracking devices and apps these companies are bringing physical therapy into the homes of those who need them most.

Digital Physical Therapy Companies To Look Out For Include:

While some of these companies are only available through specific employer-based healthcare plans, others are making their technology directly available to customers without going through insurance.

Digital physical therapy is making the treatment more accessible to patients.


In the realm of back pain management, physical therapy is the gold standard with a wealth of evidence to support it. Physical therapy is a way that people can participate in their own recovery process (especially digital physical therapy) and learn ways to prevent and manage back pain from happening to them again in the future.

Through targeted exercises, manual techniques, and invaluable education, physical therapy empowers you to reclaim your mobility and restore your quality of life.

Digital PT allows people to do physical therapy when it is convenient for them.

Remember, your back pain is as unique as you are. A personalized approach, under the guidance of a skilled physical therapist is what makes it such an effective treatment. Embrace lifestyle changes that support spinal health, and maintain open communication with your therapist, and track your progress along the way to ensure your treatment remains aligned with your goals.

As you embark on this path, know that you're not alone. With the knowledge, tools, and support garnered from physical therapy, you're equipped to face each day with newfound strength and resilience. Your journey toward a pain-free, active life begins here.


bottom of page