If you’ve ever dealt with painful back conditions, you’re not alone. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, back pain is the most commonly reported pain across the nation. In fact, one out of every four Americans has experienced back pain in the past three months. Although common, back pain is often misunderstood and left untreated.
Physical Therapy can be a very effective treatment option for a wide range of back conditions. This includes all lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine conditions such as sprains, strains, and disc injuries. Also, post-operative rehabilitation from a physical therapist can be a critical step for a positive outcome.
The experienced and caring physical therapists at Twin Boro in New Jersey offer nonsurgical, noninvasive treatment options to help alleviate back pain without dependency on medications. Physical therapy is being shown to be making a dent in the terrible opiate reliance problem. Through a comprehensive, customized treatment plan, our professionals help patients increase strength, endurance, and mobility which contribute to reducing pain and improving quality of life in the long run.
Treatment for Back Pain
At Twin Boro, we create a customized treatment and exercise program to directly address the source of pain through gaining mobility and strengthening to ultimately improve function. Our team works collaboratively with each patient to determine the best treatment approach for that patient’s specific needs.
Physical Therapy for back conditions may include:
- Hands-on manual therapy
- Myofascial release
- Trigger point myotherapy
- Neuromuscular therapy
- Acupressure therapy
- Ultrasound therapy
- Spinal traction
- Electrical muscle stimulation
- Heat/cold therapy
- Prescribed strengthening exercises
Risk Factors for Back Conditions
Anyone can experience back pain, even youth. The following factors may put you at a higher risk of developing back pain:
- Age. Although youth can develop back pain, too, it is more common in adults ages 40 and over.
- Sedentary Lifestyle. A lack of exercise can lead to weakened back and abdominal muscles that can lead to back pain.
- Excess Weight. If overweight, the extra body weight can place too much stress on your back.
Improper Lifting Techniques. Lifting with your back and not your legs can cause a back injury.
- Psychological Conditions and Diseases. People prone to depression may have a greater risk of back pain as well as those who suffer with arthritis and cancer.
- Smoking. Studies show that smokers have an increased rate of back pain.
Common Symptoms of Back Pain
Back pain can have a major impact on quality of life, limit mobility, and interfere with work and normal activities. Back pain can range in intensity from mild to severe, and may include the following symptoms:
- Shooting, burning or stabbing sensation in the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine
- Radiating pain down the leg
- Pain that worsens with bending, twisting, lifting, standing or walking
If you’re missing out on life due to chronic back pain, you can find relief at Twin Boro Physical Therapy, located throughout New Jersey. The general goals of physical therapy for back conditions are to decrease pain, increase function and empower patients with the knowledge they need to prevent future injuries.
About the Human Spine
The human spine is a bony structure which houses and protects the spinal cord, and serves as the place of origin for the peripheral spinal nerves. In addition to this protective function, the spine is designed to provide both stability and flexibility to the trunk in multiple planes.
The human spine is divided into four areas that fall between the head and pelvis. These four sections (from the head down) are the cervical spine (neck), thoracic spine (mid back), lumbar spine (low back), and sacrum (part of the pelvis). Each of these areas is unique in both design and function.
Common to the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions of the spine are the following anatomical structures.
• Bony Vertebrae
• Facet Joints
• Intervertebral Disc
• Spinal Nerves
The vertebrae are the bony building blocks of the back and spine. They are designed to protect the spinal cord, provide support and structure to the spine, and carry the weight of the head and trunk. The vertebrae of each section of the spine vary because they have different functions specific to that area.
Cervical: There are seven cervical vertebra and they are the smallest and most mobile in the body.
Thoracic: The 12 vertebrae in the thoracic spine are larger and less mobile. The thoracic vertebrae are the origin of the twelve ribs of the thoracic cage, which serve to protect the vital organs of the body (for example: lungs, heart, liver, kidneys etc.)
Lumbar: The five lumbar spine vertebrae are the largest in the body. They are more mobile than the thoracic vertebrae, but are less mobile than the cervical vertebrae. Lumbar vertebrae are designed to support the weight of the trunk and connect the upper half of the body to the pelvis and legs.
Some common conditions of the vertebra include spinal compression fracture, spondylolisthesis, ankylosing spondylitis, osteoporosis and spondylosis.
Each vertebral level of the spine has two facet joints, which connect one vertebra to the other. The function of the facet joints is to provide support, stability and mobility to the spine.
The facet joints all have articular cartilage that covers the ends of the bones. The articular cartilage has a smooth and shiny surface, which allows the ends of the bones to slide freely over each other. In addition, each joint is surrounded by a soft tissue protective sleeve called a capsule and is lubricated by synovial fluid.
Common conditions of the facet joints include spondylosis, osteoarthritis of the spine, facet joint inflammation, degenerative joint disease of the spine and facet arthropathy.
The intervertebral disc is a fibrocartilaginous structure located between the bodies of adjacent vertebra. There is a disc between each pair of vertebra in the spine except between the first and second cervical level.
The disc is similar to a jelly donut. It has a series of outer fibrous rings (annulus fibrosis) surrounding a gelatinous center (nucleus pulposus). The disc functions as a cushion, allows movement, and serves as a cartilaginous joint between adjacent vertebrae.
Common conditions of the intervertebral disc include bulging disc, herniated disc, prolapsed disc, degenerative disc disease, anular tear of the disc, ruptured disc and slipped disc.
When the intevertebral disc and fact joints connect two vertebral bodies they form canals on either side of the spine. These canals are called intervertebral foramina. The nerves leaving the spinal cord travel through the foramina, exiting the spinal column, and travel out to the body.
The size or diameter of the spinal foramina can vary from person to person. Any compromise or encroachment of the canal may put pressure on the exiting nerve. This may produce symptoms varying from pain, tingling, numbness or even weakness.
Some conditions affecting the intervertebral foramen include spinal stenosis, spinal osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease
The spinal nerves are the electrical wires of the body. They originate at the spinal core and exit the spinal column through the intervetebral foramen. Once out in the body, the spinal nerves are considered peripheral nerves. They provide both sensation (afferent) and motor (myotomal) innervations to the body.
Damage or interference with the conduction (ability to transfer information) of these nerves can cause neurological problems such as pain, weakness, abnormal sensations and changes in spinal reflexes.
Common spinal nerve conditions include nerve root entrapment, adhered nerve root, pinched nerve, stinger, sciatica, lumbar radiculopathy and cervical radiculopathy.
Ligaments are fibrous bands of soft tissue that attach bone to bone. In the spine there are two classifications of ligaments, called the intrasegmental and the intersegmental. Intrasegmental ligaments attach and hold individual vertebra to each other. Intersegemental ligaments attach to and hold many vertebra together.
Ligaments in the spine are vital in providing stability and structure to the spine. They also allow for movement in different planes. The ligamentous system of the spine protects the intervertebral discs from injury, and prevents excessive movement of the spine.
The major ligaments of the intrasegmental group are the ligamentum flavum, interspinous ligament and the intertransverse ligaments. The major ligaments of the intersegmental ligaments include the anterior longitudinal ligament, the posterior longitudinal ligament and the supraspinatous ligament.
The muscular system of the spine is large and complex, including the deep erector spinae or paraspinal muscle groups that run parallel to the spine. In addition, there are the more superficial muscles that help to move and protect the spine. Each area of the spine has a group of muscles that serve to support, move and stabilize it.
The spinal muscles work together with the ligaments to provide movement, stability, and postural support to spine. They can be categorized according to their function. The four basic categories are the flexors, extensors, lateral flexors and rotators.
Muscles can be multisegmental connecting and attaching to more than one vertebra or muscles that support and move one segment in relation to another. Irritation or injury of the structures of the spine may produce spasm and pain in the muscles of the back. Injury, tightness, or weakness of the muscles of the spine can result in pain, decreased ability to maintain good posture, limit movement and reduce ability to stabilize the spine during activity.
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