Manual Therapy and Low Back Pain

July 26th, 2012
Manual Therapy and Low Back Pain

Low back pain is very common and your doctor has probably told you there is nothing serious about your back pain. It would like likely get better without treatment after a certain period of time which can take 2 to 3 weeks. Usually, bed rest and medication can eliminate low back pain. One word of caution though, bed rest should not be more than 2 days because staying in bed for too long can worsen the pain. Recovery is faster if you return to doing your normal daily activities.

Patients with low back pain are now considering another avenue of treatment, manual therapy. Manual therapy may include spinal manipulation to the treat muscles and joint pain. Physical therapy can combine massage as manual therapy with an exercise program to manage low back pain.

Physical therapists who use manual therapy aim to ease tension of the back muscles and stiff joints to relieve back pain and improve flexibility. Manual physical therapy techniques include the following:

  • Soft tissue work is the application of pressure to soft tissues such as the muscles. The pressure relaxes the tense muscles, increases blood circulation and eases the muscle pain.
  • Mobilization uses slow to fast movements and gentle to forceful pressure to manipulate joints and bones to position. This manual therapy technique helps to loosen tight muscles around joint joints, reduces joint and muscle pain and improves flexibility and alignment.

Like any type of physical therapy, the first step in manual therapy is performing a full assessment of the affected area to decide whether there is any risk or complication that might arise from using manual therapy to manage back pain. From the results of this assessment, the physical therapist will decide what type of manual therapy will be used.

Some types of manual therapy

  • Soft Tissue Mobilization – this is usually applied to the muscles around the spine. Manual therapy is done by rhythmic stretching and applying deep pressure.
  • Strain-Counterstrain – this type of manual therapy corrects abnormal reflexes of the neuromuscular system that cause postural problems that result to back pain. The therapist will determine the position of comfort and will hold the patient in that position for 90 seconds. Then a mild stretching will be induced to bring the body out of the position of comfort allowing the muscles to reset to its normal level of tension.
  • Joint Mobilization – is a manual therapy that involves increasing the range of motion of the joints and loosening the restricted joints.
  • Muscle Energy Techniques – this is an active procedure of manual therapy where restricted muscled are mobilized and shortened muscles are lengthened.

Long term relief from back pain needs other appropriate treatment aside from manual therapy. The goal is to have the proper level of activity to prevent the pain from occurring again.