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05 Tue

Cutting-edge solutions for back pain?

Cutting-edge solutions for back pain?

Written By: Paul Kochoa, PT, DPT, OCS, CGFI

Recently, I watched a Dr. Oz show that featured a segment about “Cutting-edge solutions for back pain.”  It peaked my interest, I respect Dr. Oz and all his work, but when I saw what constituted “cutting-edge”, I was surprised and disappointed.  Dr. Oz had a orthopedic physical therapist on the show to talk about a common problem that can affect up to 70% of Americans (great info-graphic).  The physical therapist proceeded to talk about ultrasound, tiger balm patches, and a ‘bumpy ball’.  I suppose the therapist was constrained by available television segment time and other outside factors, but I really believe that she could have done a better job at educating the public on what really is “cutting-edge”.

As an APTA board-certified orthopedic specialist with over 12 years of experience in the field, I believe that a modality that has been around since the 1930s doesn’t count as “cutting-edge”.  The same goes for a chemical heating patch that you can apply on your skin.  Ultrasound is a deep heating modality that is supposed to heat up tissue up to 1.5 inches below the skin surface.  And the proposed treatment of heating a disc or muscular tissue to address low back pain has a few holes.

ultrasound cross outMore recent research has shown that back pain can be properly diagnosed and classified into several categories.  Once proper diagnosis is achieved, low back pain can be successfully relieved with manual therapy, joint mobilization, stretching, corrective exercises, and most importantly, patient education.  Ultrasound and a heat patch may feel great for a while, but these treatment techniques don’t address the whole picture or address why you’re having the back pain.

To truly be cutting-edge for treating low back pain, you have to be able to treat the whole patient.  Movement and posture assessment are integral to the process.  Correcting deficits and educating the patient on what causes the problem are important as well.  It’s like getting a new paint job for a broken car, you need to get the proper fix and not just treat the aesthetics.

Low back pain can be caused by a variety of reasons.  Chronic back pain can not be treated by simply applying ultrasound or a chemical patch.  There are certain underlying soft tissue or joint deficits that need to be addressed manually and corrected with exercise.  Make sure you don’t fall for solutions that claim to be “cutting-edge”, but are merely topical or temporary answers.

At Professional Physical Therapy and Training, we adhere to assessing and treating the whole patient.  Therapy fads and treatments that don’t address the root cause of low back pain are not part of our cutting-edge solutions.  For more information or to speak to a physical therapist, feel free to contact our offices in Madison and Summit, NJ at 973-270-7417.

Coming up:  How you can treat your own back.

Image courtesy of Praisaeng /

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