Your orthopedic doctor will likely prescribe physical therapy (PT) as part of your lower back pain management. When successful, this therapy can help you avoid more invasive treatments, such as surgery. Here is what you can expect from a comprehensive physical therapy program to treat your lower back pain.
The physical therapist will first work with you to stretch out the tense muscles in your lower back. These muscles put pressure on the nerves which cause most of your pain. The exercises will focus on lower back muscles, abdominal muscles and the muscles in your hips and legs. The stretching exercises will be slow and gradual so the muscles aren't jarred. Some of the exercises will include:
- rolling on your back on an exercise ball
- using foam cushions under your back on a mat
- rolling your torso up while keeping your stomach touching the floor and arching your back
Dynamic Stabilizing Exercises
These focus on strengthening the muscles along your spine to better support your back. Weakened muscles allow the spine to curve in unnatural ways, putting more stress on the muscles and causing pain. With more support, your spine maintains better posture when sitting or standing, reducing your pain. Some of these exercises include:
- rolling on your side on the exercise ball to strengthen the muscles along the side of your spine
- using balancing machines to put the spinal muscles through their full range of motion
Core Strengthening Exercises
These exercises focus on the lower back and abdominal muscles to create a ring of support around your spine. Strong muscles in this region prevent strain when you bend or rotate your lower back. Your physical therapist will work with you using the following core strengthening exercises:
- abdominal crunches
- leg raises
- hyperextension of your lower back muscles on a machine
- bending forward as if to touch your toes while holding a weighted bar across your shoulders
If you have severe back pain and stiffness, your therapist may suggest doing exercises in a pool. The water supports the weight of your body so the focus of the workout will be the targeted muscles in your back. As the muscles become stronger, you'll do more of your routine outside of the pool.
Some doctors will order a traction session for you with the physical therapist. You will rest on your back on a special table. A belt strap may be secured around your waist, or you'll wear special traction boots. A cable extends from the belt or boots over a pulley at the end of the table. A small amount of weight will be placed on the cable. The theory behind this is that the pulling force on your legs or hips will slowly stretch muscles in your back and help them relax.
Look into visiting a physical therapist in your area, such as Peak Physical Therapy of Brooklyn if you live in New York.