Back Pain in Happy Valley

Back pain is the most common orthopedic complaint of patients when they see their primary care provider. Pain in the back is the leading cause of physical disability in the world. We use our backs for almost every functional task including: walking, standing, sitting, pushing, pulling, lifting, carrying. These movements carry over into other aspects such as: gardening, working, sports, and general recreational activities. It is obvious how back pain can hinder or stop us from participation in many aspects of our daily lives.

Fortuitously, physical therapy is one of the leading and most evidence based intervention that you can participate in to resolve and prevent back pain. An individualized home program, core strengthening activities, walking, and utilizing sound body mechanics with good posture will facilitate a speedy recovery. Most underlying causes of back pain can be resolved without the need for surgery or injections. At Ascent Physical Therapy you will team up with doctoral trained therapists to assist you in your specific needs.

Back pain symptoms may be triggered by several underlying problems. Your back is a complicated network of muscles, nerves, bones and discs. Accurate diagnosis and specific treatment is a must to target the source of your symptoms. These are some of the most common conditions we see related to back pain at Ascent Physical Therapy and a glimpse of how we handle them together –

Treatment of Lower Back Pain

Generalized lower back pain is a broad term that doesn’t address a cause, only the location of symptoms. The underlying cause for your low back pain may be one of several possibilities including, but not limited to:

  • Your nerve roots which exit from the sides of your spine could be irritated causing pain to shoot down the back of your leg(s).
    (see Sciatica)
  • Your paraspinal and/or erector musculature may be irritated leading to spasms or tightness.
  • The joints in your spine may be inflamed from compression, overuse, or functional instability.
  • The intervertebral discs in your spine may be degenerating or herniated.

A complete assessment with one of our doctoral trained physical therapists will assist in identifying the underlying cause of your symptoms. After the source of your symptoms is identified, your provider will create a custom home exercise program to target the problem. Our home programs are individualized and contain optional online access to videos demonstrating proper safe techniques.

Due to the natural guarding mechanism (albeit overreactive at times) of muscle spasms, it is important to begin relieving pain immediately to prevent a snowball from becoming an avalanche. Due to our tendency to lead sedentary lives at and outside of work, our core and general musculature becomes weak. Therefore, adherence to your prescribed program is key to your full recovery!

Your physical therapist is also well trained in hands on, or manual techniques, to encourage proper joint alignment and decompress. Another technique commonly used is soft tissue mobilization, or massage, which is a fantastic way to release tense muscles that can contribute to your pain. However, don’t forget, the best evidence in your battle against back pain involves – functional core strengthening, using ideal body mechanics, and improved posture.

Treatment of Upper Back Pain

Upper back pain is commonly influenced by – posture, lifting, and carrying techniques. How we move, how much we don’t move, and our posture while not moving, can contribute to your underlying source of pain. It’s also not uncommon to have upper back pain in women with bras that are not fit properly or with larger breasts. In those cases, a more optimal fitting supportive garment, postural training and specific strengthening activities will result in complete relief.

The most prevalent aggravator of upper back pain is the common desk job. Hunching at a desk over your computer or laptop for sometimes over 50% of your time awake is problematic (see Fix Your Sit). There is almost no motion occurring in your body except for our keyboard warrior fingers pounding away tirelessly. The outcome is a stiff or rigid upper back that does not experience the benefits of movement for joint nutrition and flexibility. This posture is referred to as “kyphotic” and can contribute to neck pain by influencing what is called a “forward head posture”. This slow, almost unnoticeable, progressive condition of your spine slowly over-stretches your muscles to a point that they must work significantly harder to function normally. This can commonly cause your muscles and spine to feel sore, stiff, and achy.

Physical therapy for your upper back can assist you in re-training of ideal posture and mobility through targeted joint mobilizations, prescriptive exercises, and focused stretches. You will discover that in addition to your upper back feeling better, your neck and shoulders may feel better as well from the restoration of normal postures and positions.

Treatment of Disc Pain

Disc pain can be related to a herniated disc, a degenerative disc, or a nearby pinched. These dysfunctions used to be treated primarily through surgeries such as, microdiscectomies and fusions. Although these treatments are still prevalent (and at times, absolutely necessary), advancing research indicates patient outcomes are, at times, no better than with rehabilitation through physical therapy. Up to 20% of patients who have undergone a fusion, have a second fusion within 5 years. A study of spinal surgery prevalence found that the #1 predictor of surgery was not related to symptom presentation at all, it was based on your zip code.

Pain from a dysfunctional disc can often be fully resolved with physical therapy alone. The course of care may take 6 to 12 weeks to completion but the value is immeasurable. At Ascent Physical Therapy we perform hands on techniques to release trigger points, improve the mobility of your nerves, and prescribe individualized core activities to enhance the structures around your spine.

If your disc pain did require a surgical intervention, fear not, we can help! With training on adherence to your surgeon’s precautions, body mechanics training, and prevention strategies; we can minimize risk of needing that second fusion while helping you return to your normal life.

Treatment of Sciatica

Sciatica is a condition involving nerve irritation from a variety of possible sources which leads to a traditional “white hot, electric, lancing pain down the back of my leg(s)”. Due to the multiple possible underlying sources of the irritation, being evaluated by our team is critical to identify the problem and address it directly!

Possible sciatica triggering mechanisms include:

  • Herniated, bulging, or ruptured discs.
  • Lumbar spine stenosis.
  • Sacroiliac dysfunction.
  • Piriformis dysfunction.

With having a handful of possible sources generating your pain, the intervention strategies of choice will be dependent on the examination findings. Our overall treatment goal is to relieve pressure to the nerve at the appropriate location of dysfunction. Once the nerve has been decompressed and the inflammation subsides it is critical to address the “why”, “what”, and “how” your nerve became compressed and irritated in the first place. Sometimes it is because of how we move, how we lift or carry, or what our postures look like. Addressing these can prevent future bouts of sciatica.

Treatment of Rib Fractures

Fractured ribs are more common than you’d expect and can be caused from sports, car accident, falls, or other sources of mechanical trauma. Fractured ribs are not usually resolved with surgical interventions, but you should have x-ray studies and supervision by your primary care provider to confirm the bone heals correctly. Treatment for fractured ribs in physical therapy usually involves posture and activity modifications to reduce symptoms and prescriptive stretches to maintain and restore full range of motion. Other common problems that need resolution include retraining of breathing strategies and core strength.

If any of these sound like a problem you’ve been experiencing and back pain has been interfering with your life, call us today to get started on a plan of care that works for you. Ascent Physical Therapy is conveniently located off Sunnyside Road in Happy Valley. We also love treating our neighboring communities of Damascus, Gresham, Clackamas, and Sandy at our top rated physical therapy clinic!