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According to Georgetown University, 65 million Americans have reported some kind of recent back pain episode. While many issues are resolved after treatment, an unlucky 16 million people find that their back pain is chronic. 

Chronic back pain doesn’t just turn a person’s world upside down, making everyday life sometimes unbearable, but it also turns their budgets upside down. Back pain is, after all, the sixth most costly condition in the U.S. between healthcare expenses, time off work, and disability payments. 

When it comes to back pain, though, our instincts might actually be the worst thing for it. Because of the pain you feel with every movement, it might be your instinct to lie down for a day of heating pads and watching Netflix. However, remaining stationary is one of the worst things you can do for your back pain. 

Instead, exercises and other treatments under the guidance of a physical therapist are what will get you out of your cycle of pain. In this article, we will explore how physical therapy is actually the answer to giving yourself some relief from your chronic back pain. 

Passive Physical Therapy

Physical therapy has two main modalities: passive and active. Passive physical therapy is when a physical therapist does something to the patient. In other words, the patient is receiving care from the therapist and not taking an active part in their own recovery. 

Examples of common passive therapies that a physical therapist may use include:

1. Heat and Cold Therapy

In the first few days of a pain episode, applying heat, ice or a combination of both to the sore area can help relieve pain and inflammation. Heat or ice is usually applied for 10-20 minutes every couple of hours. 

2. TENS Units

A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) provides electrical stimulation that overrides the pain signals that are being sent to the brain. If the patient finds this kind of therapy successful, a TENS unit can be used long term at home to help with relief. 

3. Manual Therapy

This type of therapy is delivered with the hands instead of a device or machine. The therapist will use their hands to apply pressure on the muscle and manipulate joints to help relieve back pain. 

Active Physical Therapy

The other common modality of physical therapy is known as active therapy. As the name indicates, the patient will take more of an active role to relieve their pain. These therapies can be done as a combination between visit and at-home exercises. Still, under the guidance of a therapist, active physical therapy might include:

1. Stretching Exercises

The goal of stretching exercises is to not only relieve the pain you’re experiencing but also to strengthen muscles in your back to prevent further episodes. When stretching, take care not to overdo it. If you find you can’t breathe smoothly or comfortably while stretching, you may be doing more harm than good.

2. Aerobic Exercises

Careful aerobic exercise can help get the entire cardiovascular system involved in your recovery. Activities like swimming, biking or simply walking can help relieve pain and help strengthen your muscles. Don’t worry if your stamina isn’t too high while in pain – start slow and work your way up incrementally. 

3. Strengthening Exercises

The goal of any kind of physical therapy is not only to treat the present, acute pain, but it is also to help reduce the risk of future pain. Strengthening exercises such as bridges, lateral leg raises, and partial curls can not only relieve current pain but strengthen your back for prevention as well. 

If you’re looking for a physical therapist to help you find the right balance between active and passive therapies, South Orange Rehabilitation and Wellness has a team of professionals passionate about getting your life back on track with less pain. We customize all of our treatment plans to meet your unique needs and capabilities to get you relief as soon as possible. Contact one of our professionals today to discuss how South Orange Rehabilitation and Wellness can help you feel better and move better today.