Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Sixty percent of the visits to Intermountain WorkMed Physical Therapy are related to lower back pain.
Since the clinic is located in a primarily industrial area, many of those visits are due to problems associated with incorrect lifting, said Brad Dalton, a physical therapist there. In fact, correct lifting techniques are taught to nearly every patient who sets foot inside the facility, as it is a good way to prevent additional or further injury.
Even just slight forward leaning movements can increase the force of a person's body weight on their spine up to 200 percent. Add a 20-pound parcel or package in the arms of someone lifting incorrectly, and the back could be bearing 10 times the weight of that package.
"You don't ever want to over do it," Dalton said.
Correct lifting includes a squared stance, squatting and lifting with the strength of the legs and not bending the back, and keeping objects close to the body throughout the duration of the movement, he said.
"Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen in the real world workplace," which Dalton said is another reason why regular exercise and core-strengthening movements are extra important. With the correct treatment and therapy, he said nearly every lower back injury can be overcome.
Dalton, along with Dr. Scott Swasey, a specialist at the Intermountain Medical Center's Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinic, will be featured in Saturday's Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Hotline, where they will take questions about back pain and available treatment options. From 10 a.m. until noon, people can call 1-800-925-8177 or post questions on the Deseret News' Facebook page, www.facebook.com/desnews.
Treatment for lower back pain can include spinal manipulation or mobilization, instruction for specific exercises and/or movements that will strengthen the area, or even unloading or providing traction to the spine, separating the links of the spine. But all procedures can be done with help from a therapist and plans are tailored to meet the needs of each patient.
"I would never encourage someone to baby it or give into bed rest," Dalton said. "That is always worse than anything else, as getting the muscles and joints moving doesn't harm it, but helps it."
Sixty percent of lower back injuries, he said, will be better within two to three weeks, and 90 percent of them are rectified within six weeks. Only about 10 percent of lower back injuries will lead to chronic pain.
"Back pain is one of the most frustrating and most debilitating injuries that people can experience because it affects all movements and all of your daily activities," Dalton said, adding that physical therapy often includes a lot of encouragement and emotional support, telling the patient that "they will get through this."
Yoga and Pilates are helpful to stretch and strengthen core muscles that support the spine below the rib cage, and Dalton said a lot of the same principles used in the popular exercise routines are used in physical therapy.
Physical therapy is offered throughout the state in multiple settings, at clinics, at home and in hospitals, and is used to restore function in a variety of cases, including dealing with the nervous system and skin in wound care, as well as orthopedics and acute care. People of all ages can be assisted and it is common practice for sports teams and/or schools to retain a physical therapist.
While some insurance plans still require a doctor's referral to physical therapy, technically Utah state law precludes it. As a direct access state, referrals for muscle and joint pain care from a therapist are not necessary, unless it is a worker's compensation claim.
Saturday: Living with back pain
The Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Hotline focuses on back pain and advances in treatment options. From 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dr. Scott Swasey, a specialist with Intermountain Medical Center's Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinic, and Intermountain WorkMed physical therapist Brad Dalton will answer questions. Call 800-925-8177 or post questions during that time on the Deseret News' Facebook page, www.facebook.com/desnews.
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