All of us have probably met someone in our lives who suffers from chronic (or long-term) back or neck pain. It could be a friend, a family member, or it may even be yourself. Think about that individual for a moment. Imagine the struggle they experience while seeking a remedy, or the attempts made at solving the mystery of their discomfort.
These are the types of patients that physical therapists, such as me, are working to help every day. These are also the patients who frequently ask us what it is we can do to properly address their condition. The answer is fairly simple and somewhat surprising: it’s education!
When a physical therapist is performing an evaluation, they are working on getting to the CORE of your problem. For the low back (or lumbar spine), that problem may indeed be the stabilizing musculature that we commonly refer to as the “core.” While a physical therapist will not be able to give you abs like Vin Diesel, we can show you how to activate the abdominal muscles which help to stabilize and protect your back. Once you have a basic understanding, we begin to educate patients on how important those muscles are to perform everyday activities, along with how they relate to your posture and function.
In the neck (or cervical spine), the importance of posture is immeasurable. Neck pain, migraines, stenosis, disc pathologies, and even shoulder and lower arm soreness, can all be corrected with postural education. An example of how one can benefit is by adjusting how you are positioned while looking down at your smartphone. We may not call the neck stabilizers the “core” but it operates in the same manner. By activating the specific musculature that supports the neck and head we can improve the positioning of the cervical spine and put you on the right path to pain relief.
Once we’ve identified the root cause of your pain and communicated some education, then the real fun begins! A skilled physical therapist will utilize “hands-on” or manual therapy to help achieve your recovery goal. These types of techniques help to relax tight muscles, open up space in the joints, improve range of motion and make you feel good! Therapy in conjunction with education will not only get you on the right path towards success but also provide you with the skills to avoid further problems.
So let’s relate this back to the person I asked you to think about earlier. As it turns out, their pain may not be as mysterious as once thought. All you need is a skilled physical therapist working to get to the CORE of your back and neck pain.
By Nicholas Drago, PT, DPT, Clinic Director of Excel Physical Therapy – Ardmore
Learn more about the causes and treatment for neck and back pain in our November 2019 monthly newsletter!