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How Can Physical Therapy Help My Back Pain?

by Tony Matoska PT, DPT, CMPTLeave a Comment

At some point in our lives, most of us will experience back pain1 in some form. Back pain is complicated because there are numerous factors that can contribute to the start of it. Factors such as type of injury, age, activity level, medical history, and even socioeconomic status can have an effect on the cause and severity of your back pain. It can have an enormous impact on your personal life, family life, job performance and ability to participate in recreational activity. There can also be extreme financial implications2 that come with back pain, including time off work due to injury, doctor’s appointments, imaging such as MRIs or CT scans, and prescription medication costs.

One of the first questions that you’ll likely ask yourself if you are experiencing back pain is “what can I do to help my back?” Your initial thoughts may include going to see your primary care doctor, getting a surgical consult, putting heat or ice on your back, or maybe even bed rest. I recommend that you seek out physical therapy first.*

Now you may be asking yourself, “well how can physical therapy help my back pain?” Research shows that physical therapy is actually very effective treatment for low back pain3 and there are many ways a physical therapist can help you on the road to recovery, including:

* Many states have direct access laws put in place that allow patients to access physical therapy without a prescription. Click here to learn more about the direct access laws in your state or call your nearest Athletico clinic for more information.

1. Evaluating and diagnosing the problem.

The initial evaluation done by your physical therapist will consist of numerous steps. The first is gathering a history of the injury which will help the physical therapist determine what will need to be assessed during your visit. The assessment is next, which determines the body structure involved and the likely causes of your pain. Lastly, specific measurements of the involved body regions are taken to determine the overall level of limitation and what needs to be addressed to meet your goals. Your therapist will also be able to screen for more serious conditions that may require a referral to a specialist or immediate medical attention.

2. Hands on treatment.

Depending on your condition, manual therapy may be indicated and likely beneficial to help relieve your pain or restore mobility. Many Athletico physical therapists who specialize in treatment of the spine have advanced training and certification in manual therapy and can help provide the relief you’re seeking.

3. Exercise prescription.

Exercise is the main treatment that will help relieve your back pain and get you back to full function. Based on your condition, your physical therapist will be able to prescribe an exercise regimen specific to your needs to help relieve your pain, improve your mobility, increase your strength, and restore your confidence to perform your daily activities.

4. Lastly and most importantly: education!2

Your physical therapist will educate you on the causes of your back pain, the anatomy involved, the science behind your pain, how to properly manage your symptoms, perform safe activity, and progress back to 100 percent. One of my long term goals for each of my patients is to empower them with the knowledge about how to continue to improve, how to manage any flare-ups or set-backs, and how to properly utilize physical therapy in the future. Questions are always encouraged. Getting your questions answered will help greatly on your road to full recovery.

PT First

Seeking physical therapy as your first option to treat your back pain will help save you time and money, avoid additional stress, and give you the confidence to get back to doing what you love to do. Our website has more details on our back pain treatment specialty. You can search for a location that provides this spine specialty service. We encourage those seeking treatment to request an appointment or free assessment.

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The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. Freburger, Janet K, et al. “The Rising Prevalence of Chronic Low Back Pain.” Arch Intern Med, NCBI, 9 Feb. 2009,
2. Moseley L (2002): Combined physiotherapy and education is efficacious for chronic low back pain. Australian Journal of Physiotherapy 48: 297-302
3. “Low Back and Neck Pain Cost Americans Billions in Health Care Spending.” American Physical Therapy Association, 16 Sept. 2017,

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