Physical Therapy Exercise for Pain Relief

There are several mechanical methods and physical agents therapists use to relieve pain, such as applying ice/heat packs, ultrasound, and electrical muscle stimulation (see Passive physical therapy). In addition to exercise, some manual therapy techniques are massage and mobilization.

Pain is also relieved through active techniques and exercise therapy - exercises that stretch the sore muscles and increase their flexibility. Two common methods of exercise that provide pain relief include:

  • The McKenzie approach to back exercises was developed specifically to centralize and relieve back related pain symptoms
  • Dynamic lumbar stabilization exercises control pain by reducing motion at the injury location. This technique involves training muscles to automatically provide protective support during activity.
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Individualized Exercise Program

Physical therapy involves evaluation of an individual's movement, physical capabilities, body type, and activity level in order to prescribe exercise and other physical means to help improve function. For certain conditions and diagnoses, a well-trained physical therapist will develop a customized exercise program based on research of the most effective spine exercises. The exercise program's pacing, specific exercises, and amount of practice with the physical therapist will vary depending on the condition and the individual's needs.

Developing the right exercise for the individual sometimes requires trial and error, reviewing the person’s response to the exercise, and adjusting the exercise accordingly.

Proper Exercise Technique

The proper exercise technique allows the patient to isolate the desired muscle/muscle group that increases the effectiveness of an exercise. A physical therapist will instruct a patient on the proper technique for performing each exercise in the individualized exercise program. Physical therapists strive to continually improve their exercise techniques, learning new ones as they come out, and scrutinizing new fads. The therapist will also cover posture and movement exercises, suggesting improvements for the patient that will provide added protection for the spine.