Progressive therapeutic exercise plays a significant role in minimizing and/or preventing chronic low-back pain, and reinforces the healing power movement has on our everyday lives, says Gopal T. Raghunath, PT MS, DPT, CSCS, owner/clinic director of Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, P.C.

A study, published last month in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), found that exercise reduced the risk of recurrent low-back pain by between 25 to 40 percent.

“For movement to be truly medicinal we must first move well and then move often,” said Dr. Raghunath. “This concept is illustrated every day in the clinic, and continually supported via countless research on back pain.”

Eighty percent of the U.S. population will experience an episode of low-back pain at some point in their lives, according to the National Institutes of Health, with 25 percent of the population having already suffered a bout of symptoms within the last three months. Low-back pain, accounts for 10 percent of primary care visits and $86 billion in annual health care expenditures.

A 2015 study published by BMC Health Services asserts that many of the costs associated with acute, non-specific back pain can be reduced by up to 60 percent when individuals seek early physical therapy intervention.

“Prescription medication and advanced imaging, such as MRI/CT scans, are indeed important and have its place and time to help control
symptoms and pinpoint etiology of the condition, respectively,” Dr. Raghunath said. “However, evidence suggests physical therapy as the
appropriate first step in treating low-back pain, which is also more cost effective.”

Studies have even demonstrated that physical therapy can help individuals either prolong or, in some instances, avoid surgery, depending on the nature and severity of the condition. For example:

Lumbar Stenosis: This is a narrowing of the spinal canal, causing irritation and/or compression of the nerve roots branching off of the spinal cord that innervate the back and lower legs, resulting in pain, tingling, numbness, weakness, and abnormal sensation/reflexes. A study published in the April 2015 edition of Annals of Internal Medicine states that Lumbar Stenosis can be treated just as successfully with physical therapy as with surgery, and with 15 percent fewer complications.

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD): The thinning of the intervertebral discs, located between each of the spinal segments that act as shock absorbers, affecting 3 million people per year. A 2013 study conducted at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital found that patients who pursued surgical intervention to treat DDD did not experience greater relief in pain/disability, or improved health status, as compared with individuals who opted for physical therapy.

“A well-trained, licensed physical therapist can often effectively treat low-back pain conservatively via manual therapy, progressive functional mobility and/or stability training, cardiorespiratory conditioning, and education on appropriate activity level modification per a patient’s presenting symptoms.” said Dr. Raghunath. “If you or someone you know is experiencing acute or chronic low-back pain, a visit with an experienced physical therapist can lead to restored optimal spine function and get you back on the path to optimal health and happiness.”