Treat your own back and neck pain?
Updated: Oct 21, 2019
"I can't do things that I use to without flaring my back up."
"Sitting at my desk all day kills my neck!"
"My imaging showed that I have degenerative disc disease and several bulging discs! There's no hope."
As physical therapists, we hear things like this daily. Pain can be frustrating because it limits our abilities to do the things we want or need to do. Add an abnormal finding on imaging to the mix and we all lose hope. In reality, most abnormalities in the spine that show up on imaging are like wrinkles. We all get them, and, no, they don't look pretty, but that doesn't mean they are painful. In fact, a relatively high percentage of people over the age of 40 have abnormalities on imaging and do not experience any symptoms or pain. Now, don't get me wrong, some abnormalities that show up on imaging do correlate with symptoms. Most can be addressed conservatively with physical therapy, but unfortunately, some do require injections or even surgery. But what if you are in the majority and you manage your own symptoms? What if someone taught you how to prevent the pain or "turn it off" as soon as it begins? Would you do it? If your answer is yes, the first step is to understand why you have pain.
So why do so many people have back and neck pain?
Most of the time back and neck pain are the result of postures and stresses that we place on our spines daily. We sit at a desk all day. We text on our phones. We do yard work. We mop and sweep our floors. All day we constantly bend our spines forward. Or maybe, we do the opposite. We stand and walk all day. We constantly look up to reach overhead. All day we constantly bend our spines backwards. Even though the second scenario is less common, each paints a picture of the stresses we place on our spines during our daily routines. These stresses turn into stiffness and eventually into pain.
So how do I treat my own back or neck pain?
Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy, also known as the McKenzie Method, is an assessment and classification system used by physical therapists to decide which exercises your spine will respond to the best. He/she will teach you self-treatment strategies that will minimize your need for healthcare professionals and allow you to not only treat and manage your current symptoms, but also prevent future episodes of pain. Once you have a good understanding of why you hurt and can perform the corrective exercises properly, you can be discharged from physical therapy. Sometimes, this can be done in two to three visits. When your pain returns, because 80% of all spinal pain does return, our hope at CORE Rehabilitation is that you have the knowledge and understanding to address your own symptoms. Of course, we will be here for you if you need us!
If you are experiencing back or neck pain, ask your doctor for a referral to CORE Rehabilitation. We have a certified McKenzie physical therapist on staff who is here to help you learn how to stop your pain now!