Case Study and Tips for Handling Back Pain
Professional Therapy Associates (PTA) says that approximately 60 percent of patients they see are suffering from back pain when they come in for help.
In December 2011 Mary slipped and fell on the ice injuring her back, neck and left leg. Despite her injuries, she returned to work as a nursing assistant shortly after her fall. But the pain in her lower back, hips and ankle continued to increase, eventually forcing her to quit her job as a nursing assistant. After a year of unemployment filled with steroid injections and prescriptions to alleviate pain and help her sleep, Mary sought help from a physical therapist.
Mary’s therapy included manual therapy to correct alignment and improve mobility in her spine as well as exercises that focused on strengthening her abdominal muscles and stabilizing her lower back. Mary walked on a treadmill in the gym at PTA’s clinic to improve her endurance, strengthen her legs, and assist with weight loss. She also received specific training and education about the importance of proper posture and body movement to minimize the risk of injury while performing her job. Six weeks later she was pain free. Mary is able to walk 30 minutes without pain, sleep without pain, and work without pain.
The therapists at PTA offer useful tips for alleviating back pain or even preventing it from happening in the first place.
- 1. Proper Posture Is Key
This is especially true for all jobs, but the desk is the most commonly forgotten area. Customize your workspace in terms of 90 degrees:
- Your seat should be high enough to allow for your torso and legs to form a 90-degree angle with your feet flat on the floor and bottom touching the back end of the seat pan.
- Your upper arm and forearm should form an angle of at least 90 degrees with your forearms resting comfortably on your desk.
You should also adjust your monitor to your needs to avoid neck and eye strain and take brief walking breaks—at least once every hour—to move your spine and get fluid moving through your joints.
- 2. Sleep Smart
The goal is to find a sleeping position that not only allows you to sleep comfortably, but wake comfortably, too. The best position is one in which your back is aligned properly. To achieve and maintain proper alignment while lying on your side, think in terms of head, shoulders and knees.
Head: Place a pillow under your head just above your shoulder with a smaller pillow or rolled hand towel providing a little curve in your neck
Shoulders: Place another pillow in front of you with your arm draped over it
Knees: Place a third pillow between your knees to keep your lower back aligned
- 3. Activity Keeps Injuries at Bay
Your spine needs nutrients as much as any other part of your body. However, some of the structures that make up your spine receive very little blood supply and rely on body movement to circulate the nutrients they require to heal and maintain pain-free mobility.
The physical therapists at PTA recommend walking on a flat or stable surface and leg stretches that focus on the hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles. And if the pain persists, it’s best to seek help from a physical therapist to ensure that the problem is diagnosed and treated properly.
A Free Consultation Can Help
The best way to determine exactly where your back pain is coming from is through a consultation by a trained professional. Professional Therapy Associates treats many different types of problems that include pain in the back, shoulder and hips due to injury or illness.
PTA offers free comprehensive screenings valued at $100 for residents of Flathead Valley. If you are in pain and in need of help from a professional please register online for your free consultation or make appointment at one of Professional Therapy Associates’ four convenient locations: North Kalispell (406-756-7878), Whitefish (406-862-5033), Columbia Falls (406- 892-7999) and Flathead Health and Fitness in Downtown Kalispell (406-257-5610).