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Patients suffering from most types of low back pain often need physical therapy as an conservative (nonsurgical) treatment option before considering other more aggressive treatments, including back surgery. The goals of physical therapy are to decrease back pain, increase function, and teach the patient a maintenance program to prevent future back problems.
Common forms of physical therapy include:
- Passive physical therapy (modalities), which includes things done to the patient, such as heat application, ice packs and electrical stimulation. For example, a heating pad may be applied to warm up the muscles prior to doing exercising and stretching, and an ice pack may be used afterward to soothe the muscles and soft tissues. Interferential therapy reduces pain and inflammation while ultrasonic therapy helps to accelerate the regeneration of new healing cells.
- Active physical therapy, which focuses on specific exercises and stretching. For most low back pain treatments, active exercise is the focus of the physical therapy program in later stages for strengthening of muscles.