Back pain is not only uncomfortable, it’s extremely common.
“The majority of people experience back pain in their life,” says Ryann McFee, a doctor of physical therapy and manager of Athletico Physical Therapy’s new Gretna location at U.S. Highway 370 and 168th Street.
Back pain affects all ages and lifestyles. The cause may be sports, pregnancy, acute injury from work or an automobile collision, or the result of repetitive routines in normal daily life (exercise, domestic obligations, workplace environments, etc.). Back pain can build slowly over time, or it can appear suddenly.
“I have treated adolescents all the way up to 90-year-olds,” she says. “Back pain can affect anybody at any time. Figuring out the root cause of the pain is key.”
Evaluation and diagnosis
McFee first evaluates possible causes of back pain. If there was an acute injury, she will assess for possible damage to spinal structures. Depending on the age of the patient, degenerative changes or arthritis may be the reason.
“A lot of times, people are not aware of what they are doing to cause the pain,” she says. “It could be their posture. Sitting at desks all day can result in back pain. For people with very physical jobs, that can be an obvious cause.”
Treatment might involve behavior modifications, workstation adjustments and-or strengthening exercises.
“We all work, 8 to 10 hours a day,” McFee says, “If there is something about your workday that is causing you pain, we need to identify what that is and how we can change that.”
McFee and her team of physical therapists have specialized training in manual therapy, which is a hands-on treatment used for a variety of conditions, including back and spine pain.
“In manual therapy, you can have mobilization of the spine, so we are actually affecting the joints and the bone alignment,” she says, “Or, we can do mobilization of the soft tissue. That focuses more on the muscles.”
Spinal mobilization by an accredited physical therapist is different from what patients would encounter at a chiropractor or a massage therapist. “There are various forms of manual therapy — from instrument-assisted therapy to trigger-point relief therapy,” McFee says.
Muscle flexibility problems often emerge as a contributing factor or a consequence of back pain, regardless of the root cause of the pain.
“A lot of times there is tightness through the hips and legs that can be addressed,” McFee says. “We do flexibility exercises, and then we focus a lot on core strengthening so that your spine is in better alignment. If you are stronger in your core and can hold your spine in better alignment, this reduces the chance of re-injury.”
The importance of education
Physical therapists also devote time to patient education. McFee and her team focus on workplace environments, ergonomic assessments and critical review of daily routines.
“We can provide information about modifying activities so they are not aggravating more discomfort,” she says. “We also offer information about how to transition back into what you were doing before the injury — whether that is running or something else.”
Physical therapy first
For those who are experiencing back pain, Athletico offers free assessments. During the assessment, an Athletico expert will take a look at your pain and provide recommendations for treatment. To schedule your free assessment, contact Athletico Gretna at 402-408-0599.