Bent over to get a heavy bag off the ground and felt a stabbing pain? Twisted to grab something from the back seat and flared up that back pain that has been nagging you off and on for years? Injured your back and are now having pain radiating down the back of your leg?
You are not alone.
Low back pain is extremely common and is listed as one of the top reasons people visit their medical doctor as well as one of the top reasons for missing work. The majority of people with low back pain get relief within six weeks, but there is a high recurrence rate if nothing else is done to address it.
Physical Therapy should be the first line of defense against a back injury. Recent studies have shown support of conservative management of low back pain with Physical Therapy, yoga, and/or other exercise in place of interventions such as medication or surgery.
Medication has only been shown to be mildly to moderately effective in the short term, and can have a host of other side effects. Opioids in particular can be very addictive and should be avoided especially with more chronic back pain. In light of the opioid epidemic plaguing the nation, your medical provider may be reluctant to try stronger medication anyway. Physical therapy, on the other hand has very few side effects, and many positive benefits besides just improving your pain in the short term. We can teach you strategies to manage your own pain at home and ways to prevent a return of symptoms down the road. Your therapist can also help to guide you toward an activity or mode of exercise that you find enjoyable for a way to keep your back healthy for years to come. It may end up saving you time, copays, and improving pain faster seeing your Physical Therapist first.
You may also be worried about seeing a Physical Therapist if you have not had any imaging and do not have a precise diagnosis. This should not be a concern. We rely primarily on physical exam findings and patient presentation to guide treatment and x-ray or MRI results should not change this. Furthermore, it is not uncommon to have bulging discs or other findings on an MRI in people who are not having any pain at all. Some positive MRI findings may even cloud the picture instead of pointing to the reason for your pain. That being said, your therapist is trained to rule out any red flags that may warrant a visit to your MD and imaging, and will not hesitate to send you if needed. It is perfectly safe to see a PT first.
To make it even easier, most insurances no longer require a referral from your physician in order to see a PT. You can come directly to Physical Therapy before the hassle of multiple MD appointments and needless time passing while you are still in pain. If you are unsure about your insurance, feel free to contact Back in Action Physical Therapy and we can direct you or call the number on the back of your card.
Sara Butler, PT, DPT