Back Pain not Responding to Physical Therapy

Physical therapy (PT) is one of the most commonly recommended methods for managing back pain. Sessions often involve muscle strengthening exercises and therapeutic techniques such as soft tissue manipulation, electric stimulation, and hot and cold therapy. Most of the time patients experience positive results from these various forms of PT. Even so, there are times when physical therapy isn’t helping with back pain. Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert back surgeons at The Spine Institute explain why.

Jumping the Gun

It’s understandable to want to feel like you’re doing something productive to regain your muscle strength and get back to your normal activity level. However, if you’ve had surgery for your back pain, your spine will need time to heal before you jump into a regular PT routine. Ease into physical therapy by:

  • Performing only the recommended exercises
  • Opting for gentler exercises between sessions, such as casual walking, certain forms of yoga, or water-based activities (with doctor approval)
  • Communicating with your physical therapist so he or she has a better idea of what to suggest

Self-Treating with PT Exercises

Looking up some PT exercises online based on a self-assessment of your back pain is fine as long as you’re on the mark. However, if you’re incorrect about your self-diagnosis, you may be doing more harm than good. For instance, muscle strengthening exercises that aren’t targeting the right area of the back may be aggravating the actual part of the spine that’s really the source of your pain. If you’ve put together your own PT routine and it’s not working, check in with your doctor for a more accurate assessment.

Results Aren’t as Noticeable as You Expected

You may think PT isn’t working for you if you’re going by the results you think you should be seeing. While some people respond quickly to weight training and muscle strengthening exercises, there is no standard timeline that applies to everyone. If you’re in doubt that you’re seeing results, keep a journal and track your personal progress between sessions or workouts. You may be surprised to see that you’re actually making small improvements. Factors to consider include:

  • Overall pain level
  • Improvements with flexibility or range of motion
  • Ability to function throughout your day

Lack of Commitment

Physical therapy is more likely to be effective if you actively participate and attend sessions. Going to every other session and not doing any of the recommended at-home exercises can also reduce your odds of seeing meaningful results. Get the most out of your PT experience by:

  • Having a positive attitude about each session rather than seeing it as something you have to get through
  • Letting your therapist know how your pain is affected by various movements
  • Requesting different techniques if you’re not comfortable with the recommended therapy methods

If you’re not experiencing beneficial results from physical therapy, the true source of your back pain may not have been diagnosed yet. Talk to your doctor or a Los Angeles spine surgeon to determine if this is the case. Oftentimes, receiving an accurate diagnosis increases a patient’s response to recommended PT techniques.

For some patients, PT may not be the solution. However, there are other options that may be effective, including minimally invasive spine surgery. Los Angeles patients can trust in Dr. Bae to diagnose the source of their pain and help them find an effective solution for relief. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an in-person evaluation.