One of the biggest fears for someone with unrelenting back pain is undergoing surgery. Most times those fears are unfounded. Surgery is the last stop in treatment options. The first is therapy.
“We do range of motion assessment, strength assessment. We’ll check functional movements. We try to do some diagnostic tests, special tests for neurological tension, things like that to try to develop an idea of what’s going on,” explains physical therapist Tom Reid. He works with the Lee Memorial Health System’s comprehensive Spine Center.
The Spine Center offers a starting point to evaluate and treat pain. Many cases result from years of misuse.
“They’ll start to kind of damage certain areas of their back over time and without correcting the movement problem they’re going to continue to wear down. You’re going to start to see degenerative disc problems, arthritis creep up sooner,” says Reid.
“Our goal is to get people functional. We look at what they’d like to accomplish, activities of daily living and try to get them back to that level of function,” says Lee Memorial Health System physiatrist Dr. Donna Lanthier.
Given a choice, most people opt for conservative care. That includes pain management and therapy. The more progress someone makes with physical therapy, the less pain medication they’ll need.
Reid demonstrates some of the equipment, “This machine is called New Step. It’s comfortable for patients because the chair kind of shifts around a little bit so they are able to actually sit without having to throw their leg over the machine. “
Strengthening muscle groups, increasing stability and learning new movement patterns, goes a long way, but it may not be enough to eliminate pain.
“They may need to come back for injection therapy and sometimes one injection takes care of the problem. Other times they need every six months or so,” says Dr. Lanthier.
Back pain is often a process, evolving over years. Getting relief is a process too, with proper guidance patients can get through it.