How Can Physical Therapy Help to Reduce Back Pain? - PT Effect

How Can Physical Therapy Help to Reduce Back Pain?

Physical therapy targets the cause of the pain
Read Time: 3 minutes
Oct 24, 2022

Back pain is an incredibly common medical complaint. Up to 80% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives. For some, this pain is temporary and heals on its own. For others, however, it’s more severe or longer-lasting. This type of back pain may require medical treatment, such as pain medication and physical therapy.

Physical therapy is often the best choice for treating pain, especially when it’s chronic, because it can help to reduce reliance on medication. This is because physical therapy treats the source of the pain rather than just reducing the amount of pain experienced. But how, exactly, does physical therapy reduce pain?

Physical Therapy Is Personalized

a physical therapist working with a patient who has back pain

Physical therapy isn’t one-size-fits-all. Just like any type of medical treatment, it’s personalized to fit your unique needs. This means that every session you have will be one-on-one and adjusted to what will best help to treat your back pain. Your medical history, what causes the pain, what medications you are taking, and even how your body best responds to different types of movement will all be taken into account.

Physical Therapy Strengthens Muscles

Back pain is sometimes either caused or exacerbated by muscles not being strong enough. Physical therapy does involve exercises that can help strengthen all back muscles, not just the ones in pain. If certain back muscles are aching, then it could be because other muscles in the back aren’t strong enough to carry their fair share of the load.

Physical Therapy Relaxes Muscles

a physical therapist using an electroshock treatment on a patient

Tight or strained muscles can also be a source of back pain. Physical therapy can help to stretch out those muscles so that they relax, reducing pain. A physical therapist will also make sure that you know how to do the stretches so you can do them yourself at home. Massage and other types of therapy can also help to relax your muscles.

A Physical Therapist Teaches You

a physical therapist demonstrating proper posture to a patient

A physical therapist doesn’t just treat you and then send you home. They teach you the skills you need to know in order to continue the stretches and exercises yourself at home. You can use these going forward to treat back pain should it reoccur. Your physical therapist may also be able to provide you with the tools you need to be able to prevent further back pain.

Physical Therapy Finds the Cause of the Pain

Taking pain medication can work to dull the pain. However, it doesn’t necessarily get at the root cause of the pain. This can help you to understand what to avoid doing in order to prevent it in the future and can help your physical therapist to treat not just the symptoms but also what is causing the pain. Even if your pain is bad enough to require medication, physical therapy can help you to rely on it less.

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Mark Shulman

Dr. Mark Shulman

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), FAAOMPT, COMT, CSCS


Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists.

Mark Shulman

Dr. Allison McKay

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), PRPC


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