If your doctor or hospital consultant refers you to a chartered physiotherapist – or you choose to see one independently – for back pain, the first step towards treatment will almost certainly be an in-depth assessment of your condition and what led to it. As well as an examination of your posture, this assessment will include a discussion that will cover your work and leisure activities, your history of back pain, the incident leading to the pain, and the nature and site of the pain.
Physiotherapy still remains largely a hands-on profession, and the most likely treatment for back pain will involve the physiotherapist using his – or her – hands gently or more vigorously to achieve one or more of the following aims:
Mobilisation – this means freeing one or more joints in the spine, and this is accomplished by the therapist moving them, often very gently, to relieve pain or spasm.
Manipulation – or realigning a joint that is or has become misplaced. Although a vigorous manoeuvre, the least force necessary is used, and this often involves a very small movement indeed.
Massage – this can help relieve muscle spasm, increase circulation to the injured area and so speed up and promote the natural healing process.
Other treatment methods commonly used by physiotherapists include ice, hydrotherapy, and acupuncture. For an acute back problem, ice can reduce pain and increase circulation while hydrotherapy can help a patient move their back and limbs more freely in water than they may otherwise be able to do. The use of acupuncture for pain relief is also increasing.