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Back Pain, Try This!

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Exercise & Modalities Relieve Back Pain

Pain affects more individuals than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. In fact, the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies reports that more than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. A recent survey conducted by National Institute of Health Statistics indicated that low back pain was the most common pain followed by headaches and facial aches. (

If you’re one of the millions who suffer from back pain, back exercise and modalities can provide relief and increase function. Back exercise and modalities are sometimes referred to as active and passive physical therapy. Physiatrists, also known as rehabilitation physicians, monitor and administer these therapies. (

Exercises That Relieve Back Pain

Active physical therapy (exercise) is necessary to rehabilitate the spine and should include stretching and strengthening exercises and low-impact aerobics. Examples of these exercises include:

  • Hamstring Stretch
  • Ankle Pumps
  • Wall Squats
  • Dynamic Lumbar Stabilization
  • Stationary Bike
  • Treadmill
  • Swimming


Even for patients who have very busy schedules, stretching, strengthening and aerobic exercises can be accomplished in less than an hour.

  • Hamstring stretches should be done for 15-20 minutes and become part of a recovering patient’s daily exercise routine.
  • To build strength, patients should perform 20-30 minutes of dynamic lumbar stabilization every other day.
  • Low-impact aerobic conditioning such as walking, biking or swimming should be done for 30-40 minutes at least three times a week.

Passive Physical Therapy (Modalities)

Modalities are referred to as passive physical therapy because they are performed on the patient. Heat/ice packs, TENS Units and ultrasound are the most commonly used modalities.

  • Heat/ice packs are used for heat and cold therapy and help reduce muscle spasm and inflammation. These therapies are easily accessible and are the most widely used.
  • The transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) unit uses electrical stimulation to provide pain relief by overriding the painful signals that are sent to the brain.
  • Ultrasound applies sound waves to the skin and penetrates into the soft tissues. Ultrasound can relieve acute pain episodes and may enhance tissue healing.


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