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Physical Therapy for Back Pain - Topic Overview

Physical therapists provide a type of treatment you may need when back pain makes it hard to move around and do everyday tasks. This treatment helps you move better and may relieve pain. It also helps improve or restore your physical function and your fitness level.

The goal of physical therapy is to make daily tasks and activities easier. For example, it may help with walking, going up stairs, or getting in and out of bed.

Recommended Related to Back Pain

Back Pain: Finding the Right Doctor

Start with your primary-care physician; back pain is so common that most family docs have seen lots of it. Your PCP is also a good person to return to if, later, you get conflicting treatment advice from specialists. He or she can help you evaluate what would be your best next step.  

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Physical therapy may be used alone or with other treatments.

You may get treatment at:

  • A clinic.
  • A hospital.
  • A sports or fitness setting.

Your physical therapist will examine you and make a treatment plan. You may need help with flexibility, strength, endurance, coordination, and/or balance.

First, your therapist will try to reduce your pain and swelling. Then he or she will probably work to increase your flexibility, strength, and endurance.

Physical therapy almost always includes exercise. It can include stretching, core exercises, weight lifting, and walking. You may learn an exercise program so you can do it at home.

Your physical therapist also may use manual therapy, education, and techniques such as heat, cold, water, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation.

Treatment may cause mild soreness or swelling. This is normal, but talk to your physical therapist if it bothers you.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 19, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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