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physical therapy for back pain

The cause of chronic pain can be simple or complex, depending upon your particular diagnosis. At the Penn Spine Center, we are equipped to manage, treat and control your spine condition. Many people find that their back or neck pain greatly improves through the use of the latest non-surgical approaches.

When you are seen at the Penn Spine Center, you will first be navigated through a care pathway that involves implementing conservative treatments.

Typically surgery is not needed to relieve back pain. Back and neck pain can often be successfully treated with a combination of focused physical therapy, pain medications, and when necessary, spinal injections. For some, back and neck pain can be healed at home, using simple treatments and by adjusting body mechanics. Others may eventually need surgery. Your physician will only recommend surgical treatment if non-surgical approaches do not work.

Each patient's treatment plan is individually selected based on that patient's needs and goals for therapy. Our physical therapists and pain psychologists work one-on-one with patients, reinforcing the concept that movement is important, to get them functioning while helping them to not focus on the pain.

Non-surgical treatment may include a combination of:

  • Activity modification
  • Exercise
  • Relaxation techniques, breathing exercises and mindful meditation
  • The use of medications
  • Interventional techniques such as nerve blocks (spinal injections)
  • Epidural injections in the lumbar and cervical spine
  • Nerve killing procedures such as radiofrequency ablation
  • Infusion pumps that deliver medications straight into the spinal canal (used mostly for cancer pain)
  • Kyphoplasty, which is a procedure where cement is injected to repair vertebral compression fractures
  • Neuromodulation, which involves spinal cord stimulators
  • Behavioral medicine techniques
  • Physical therapy
  • Fluoroscopic-guided (X-ray) injections
  • Pain psychology
  • Referrals for acupuncture when necessary, as well as counseling on how individuals can implement holistic and wellness lifestyle practices that help alleviate chronic pain

Providing Physical and Behavioral Therapy

Good Shepherd Penn Partners

At the Penn Spine Center, we believe in empowering patients through a holistic treatment plan that involves exercise, movement and physical therapy. It is common to treat back pain with an active exercise program that teaches postural techniques and biomechanical adjustments that decrease pain and help increase function and mobility. With this philosophy in mind, Penn Medicine partnered with Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network, resulting in a joint venture known as Good Shepherd Penn Partners (GSPP). GSPP provides patient-centered rehabilitation and post-acute care based on a shared goal of returning patients to their highest level of physical functioning and improving the quality of their life.

Physicians at the Penn Spine Center collaborate closely with therapists from GSPP and share a similar philosophy. Together, doctors and physical therapists agree on each patient's diagnosis and treatment plan. Penn Spine Center physicians and GSPP therapists create customized treatment plans for all patients with back or neck pain. In addition to determining the mechanical cause behind what may be causing their patient’s back pain, they will work together to assess the entire body and closely monitor the patient's response to therapy in order to change the treatment plan if needed.

Our advanced, integrated electronic system allows for all clinicians to have access to a patient’s medical records, notes and general progress. Everyone involved in the patient’s treatment sees the same documentation to ensure seamless patient care. With this ease of communication, in cases when a patient is not progressing favorably, or if there is a complication, there is an efficient process in place for the physician and physical therapist to quickly decide what the next line of intervention should be.

In addition to physical therapy, we closely monitor pain medication treatment to see if certain medications can help control pain and improve physical and mental functioning. This is not necessarily done through the use of opioids. There are other pain medication options. If needed, we offer addiction treatment to care for people who are dependent on chronic opioid use. We also offer individuals evaluation on whether or not to continue use or the ability to begin use if appropriate.

Physical Therapy for Back and Neck Pain

GSPP clinicians are consistently presenting at local, regional and national conferences. Our clinicians are responsible for creating much of the literature in spine care, have conducted extensive spine care research, and developed knowledge content that is used by other spine clinicians outside of the area. We also offer a credentialed orthopaedic physical therapy residency where therapists from across the nation to learn advanced techniques and skills.

In addition, our clinicians are trained in the latest physical therapy techniques including the McKenzie Method, Maitland-based Manual Therapy, Mulligan concepts and various exercise-based treatment therapies.


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