Exercise and physical therapy can help in many ways. If you see a physical
therapist and learn to exercise properly, you will recover faster and your
back pain will be likely to happen again. Physical therapy and exercise help
you accomplish these important goals by:
- Teaching you better posture
- Making your back stronger and more flexible
- Getting you back to work sooner
- Making it easier for you to resume normal home and social activities
- Assisting you in losing weight
- Showing you how to avoid falls (especially important for those with a narrow
spinal column, called spinal stenosis)
- Helping you feel better about yourself
What type of exercise is best?
Stretching and strengthening exercises are important in the long run. However,
starting with these types of exercises too early can make your pain worse.
For this reason, it is usually best to begin with light cardiovascular training.
Walking, riding a stationary bicycle, and swimming are great examples that
you can start as soon as two weeks after your symptoms began. Such aerobic
activity can help blood flow to your back and promote healing. They also strengthen
muscles in your stomach and back.
Working with a physical therapist is very useful to guide your recovery. The
physical therapist will help you determine when it is safe to do these different
types of exercise.
Exercise that you shouldn't do
Avoid these exercises during initial recovery unless specifically instructed
by your doctor or physical therapist:
- Contact sports
- Racquet sports
- Weight lifting
- Leg lifts when lying on your stomach
- Sit-ups with straight legs (rather than bent knees)
What will the physical therapist
At first, the physical therapist will try to reduce your pain and inflammation
by using methods like:
- Gentle stretching and manipulation
- Electrical stimulation
When the therapist performs ultrasound, a probe with jelly is rubbed over
your skin in the area of your pain. Sound waves are transmitted through the
probe. The sound waves penetrate to your tense muscles to help them relax.
For electrical stimulation, the therapist places electrodes around the area
of your pain. Tiny pulses of electricity are sent through the electrodes. Like
the sound waves from ultrasound, the pulses of electricity enter your painful,
tense muscles, helping them relax and feel better. By raising the intensity
(strength) of the electricity very slowly, the therapist has you direct how
much of the pulsations you can take. It doesn't hurt because you tell the therapist
to stop before it feels painful or to back down when it feels slightly uncomfortable.
The physical therapist will also teach you how to move correctly in order
to avoid twisting, bending, and lifting improperly. When your back is strong
enough, you will be taught stretching and strengthening exercises to avoid
getting back pain again.
Review Date: 4/6/2007
Reviewed By: Benjamin D. Roye, M.D., M.P.H., Orthopaedic Surgery, The Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-
A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.