What are the Different Types of Physical Therapy for Back Pain?

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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2019
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Some of the different types of physical therapy for back pain include passive treatment such as icing, stretching surrounding muscles, and strengthening supportive ones. Sports massage is also commonly used by physical therapists to treat pain because it can be effective at relaxing muscles. Other types of physical therapy for back pain include spinal manipulation and mobilization treatment, where the therapist applies a large amount of force to the patient’s skeletal system.

A common type of physical therapy is passive treatment. Examples of this type of therapy include icing or heating the injured area, ultrasound, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). Icing and ultrasound can be appropriate for reducing swelling in the back, while TENS may be effective at reducing nerve pain.

Physical therapy for back pain will often include stretching. Stretches help to keep the muscles supple and can also reduce pressure on the injured part of the back. Aside from back stretches, which must be performed carefully to avoid further damage, physical therapy may also include stretching leg muscles such as the hamstrings. The hip flexors, which are found at the front of the hip, are also sometimes associated with back pain.


Along with stretching, physical therapy for back pain will usually involve strengthening exercises. Similar to stretching, these exercises help to reduce pressure on certain parts of the back. Lumbar stabilization and core stability strengthening, which involves muscles of the lower back and abdomen, can be useful in reducing back pain, although the exact exercises depend on the individual’s condition. It’s important that the exercises be performed with as little discomfort as possible, otherwise the patient could do more damage.

Another type of physical therapy for back pain is massage. Deep tissue massage can be useful in increasing the flexibility of muscles and removing any unwanted scar tissue which can build up in injured muscles and cause pain. Massage also helps to increase blood flow to the area and improves circulation.

There are a number of other types of physical therapy for back pain. Spinal mobilization and manipulation, for example, involves twisting or applying force to bones of the body in order to realign them into the correct position. These treatments can be controversial because a large amount of force is put through the body and in some cases can be dangerous. Other types of physical therapy for back pain include acupuncture and supportive devices.


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