About Spinal Physiotherapy

Back or neck pain is sometimes the result of an injury to the spine, whiplash, sports accidents, sciatica, or poor posture. No matter the cause, it is uncomfortable and can leave you immobilised. Injuries to the spine can happen when joints and soft tissues become over-stretched or are placed under pressure during lifting and sudden movements.

Active Physiotherapy has a team of expert physiotherapists able to provide treatments to relieve back and neck pain, swelling, and general discomfort, whether from a sporting, work related injury or other trauma. We will tailor-make a program to bring you back to health and teach you to how to prevent future injury. Treatment utilises a variety of modalities and techniques ranging from manual therapy to hydrotherapy, ultrasound, dry needling, and others. We would advise you not to ignore spinal pain. Seek treatment as soon as possible, as it can worsen and cause ongoing dysfunction.

Back Pain 

Four out of five people suffer from upper and/or lower back pain, so chances are good that you will experience discomfort in this area at some point in life. It is normally triggered through injury, poor posture, tension, or lifting heavy objects incorrectly, as well as leading a sedentary life. It makes your back feel tender, achy, and stiff, and often there can be a nagging pain or sharp pains with certain movements. This type of pain is more common in the lower back, although back pain covers the area from the neck to the hips. Generally it will improve within just a few days, and surgery is rarely needed. For more ongoing back pain we would recommend treatment with physiotherapy. It can usually be resolved promptly with appropriate intervention. The physiotherapists at Active Physiotherapy will also advise you on preventing future episodes of back pain. There are many different types of back pain, including:

  • Sciatica is pain caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve. This pain travels down your lower back to your leg or calf and can be very uncomfortable.
  • Neck pain or stiffness in this area is very common and can be caused by sleeping awkwardly, using a computer for prolonged periods of time, sitting in a draught, or experiencing stress and anxiety.
  • Pre- and post-natal back pain. Physiotherapy can alleviate symptoms (see Women’s Health).
  • Spinal fracture may be caused by osteoporosis and referred to as compression fracture (generally occurring in the upper back or thoracic region).
  • Degenerative disc disease is one of the most common causes of low back and neck pain, and is caused from a degenerated disc in the spine.
  • Scoliosis is the abnormal curvature of the spine to the side, and can cause back pain, particularly in adults.
  • Whiplash is normally the result of injury and a sudden movement of the head forwards, backwards, or sideways. This is common after a car accident. It presents in the form of neck pain, stiffness, tenderness, and headaches, as well as reduced neck mobility.
  • Slipped disc (or prolapsed disc) happens when one of the discs that sit between the vertebrae is damaged and puts pressure on the nerves.
  • Spondylitis is a long-term condition where the spine becomes inflamed and results in back pain, stiffness, swelling, and fatigue.
  • Osteoporosis is a condition affecting the bones that causes them to weaken and become fragile. This means they are more likely to fracture.

Back Pain Treatment 

Most back pain can be treated and normally only lasts a few short weeks. Active Physiotherapy physiotherapists are able to tailor an individual recovery plan to manage pain and reduce reoccurrence of the problem. Physiotherapy uses various modalities and techniques to treat the back pain that may include.

  • Exercise (either regular, monitored exercise through classes, use of the gym, swimming, walking, or through tailored exercises that strengthen muscles and improve posture).
  • Manipulation carried out by experienced physiotherapists to alleviate back pain.
  • Massage carried out by qualified physiotherapists or remedial masseur to treat the affected area and relieve symptoms.
  • Ultrasound using sound waves directed at the area affected in your back to accelerate healing and repair.
  • Hydrotherapy, which is exercise conducted in water to help heal a painful back.
  • Passive physical therapy such as heat application, ice packs, and electrical stimulation.
  • Dry needling, targeting the area of concern using fine needles to relieve muscle tension.
  • TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) is a machine delivering electrical pulses to your back, blocking pain signals from your spine to the brain.
  • Remaining active will help to reduce stiffness, although this may be difficult if the pain is severe. Please ask us for advice.
  • Sleeping on an orthopaedic bed can help to reduce back pain, as can altering your preferred sleeping position. Please ask us for advice.
  • Relaxation is imperative, as anxiety and stress can lead to muscle stiffness and back pain.

Neck Pain

Neck pain or a stiff neck is fairly common, and generally the pain will disappear within a few days. Normally, pain in this area is not a sign of a serious problem. It is usually caused by sleeping awkwardly or using a computer for a prolonged period of time. Other causes include anxiety and stress resulting in tension in neck muscles, which can lead to neck pain.

  • Neck pain caused by wear and tear is called cervical spondylosis and happens with age. Sometimes there are no symptoms, but it can cause neck stiffness.
  • Neck pain caused by a squashed nerve is known as cervical radiculopathy and can happen after your neck has been in an awkward position; it causes pins and needles and numbness.
  • A twisted neck is known as acute torticollis and is caused by injury to the neck muscles, normally after your neck has been in an awkward position.
  • Acute neck pain or whiplash is caused by sudden, sharp movements particularly common in a car crash situation, and results in pain.
  • Stress and tension pain can occur when under excessive stress. This can lead to tension in the neck area.
  • Poor posture such as slouching, not standing straight, or holding your neck in an awkward position can result in pain.
  • Cervical herniated disc occurs in the spine, particularly in the age group 30 to 50 years, and can cause pressure on a cervical nerve resulting in pain radiating into the arm and neck.
  • Cervical osteoarthritis or neck osteoarthritis is pain radiating from the neck to the shoulder blades and will normally be at its worst first thing in the morning after sleep.
  • Sports injuries that involve repeatedly turning the head from side to side (such as the front crawl) can cause neck pain.

Neck Pain Treatment

At Active Physiotherapy, our physiotherapists are fully qualified in treating neck pain using various methods, as well as advising you on how to prevent further problems.

  • Stay active, as moving around will reduce stiffness. But if you are unable to do this, seek help, particularly if symptoms do not improve.
  • Use heat (such as a hot water bottle) on the affected area to reduce pain or muscular spasms.
  • Sleep on a low, firm pillow at night.
  • Improve your posture, as poor posture can lead to neck pain. Your physiotherapist will help you maintain good posture.
  • Try gentle exercises, moving your head from side to side and up and down to strengthen neck muscles.
  • Take regular breaks from deskwork or any activity where your neck is held in one position.
  • Manual therapy administered by one of our leading physiotherapists will reduce pain and aid in recovery.
  • A tailored program of specialised exercises will help alleviate neck pain.
  • Dry needling using fine needles to target the area of muscle tension will reduce symptoms and help in recovery.
Neck Pain Management Brochure (.pdf)

Prevention of Back and Neck Pain

While back and neck pain is sometimes the result of injury (such as a car, sporting, or work accident), usually it is the result of day-to-day actions. Thus, we should be able to prevent this type of pain from recurring by adjusting our lifestyles. Simply changing your bed to an orthopaedic style can dramatically alter the way you feel after a night’s sleep. Likewise, introducing exercise into your daily routine can strengthen muscles and relieve tension. Learning how to relax properly will reduce anxiety, which can be another cause of back and neck pain.

Active Physiotherapy’s 10 Ways to Help Prevent Back Pain:

  1. Exercise more. Contrary to popular belief, bed rest is not the best treatment for back pain, nor is limiting exercise. We are not suggesting you undertake anything strenuous, but light physical activity on a regular basis will help to ease muscle tension and reduce inflammation. A couple of days rest can aid your recovery, but any more than that won’t help alleviate pain.
  2. Be aware of your weight. Bearing excess weight (particularly around your middle) moves your center of gravity, therefore straining the lower part of the back. So stay within your preferred weight to help reduce and banish back pain.
  3. Adjust your sleep position. By simply changing the position in which you sleep, you can possibly alleviate pain. Medical experts suggest sleeping on your side and pulling your knees up to your chest. However, if you would rather sleep on your back, then place a pillow under your knees and beneath your lower back. Try not to sleep on your tummy, as this puts strain on your back. But if this is the only way you can sleep, then put a pillow underneath your hips.
  4. Lift carefully. Take care when lifting and never bend from the waist when picking up heavy objects. You should always bend your knees and squat down, pulling in your tummy muscles. Hold the object close to your body as you stand up and don’t twist the body. As an alternative, push the heavy object if possible, as this places much less strain on your back.
  5. Develop good posture. If you have to stand for long periods of time, be aware of keeping your head up and your stomach pulled in. You can also rest a foot on a stool, but remember to swap your feet over every quarter of an hour. When sitting, choose a chair with a straight back or a lower back support, as this prevents back pain. While seated, raise your knees higher than your hips.
  6. Say goodbye to high heels. Wearing high heels will move your center of gravity and put strain on your lower back, so we would suggest sticking with flats. However, if you feel you need a heel, choose one of just an inch, and always have a spare pair of flats with you in case you become uncomfortable.
  7. Lighten your wallet. If you carry a wallet, make sure it isn’t overfull, as sitting on something large and misshapen can give you pain in the lower back. If you are going to sit for a while, then remove your wallet from your back pocket and be comfortable.
  8. Trash your skinny jeans. Very tight clothing can irritate your back, as it interferes with bending over, walking, and even sitting down.
  9. Take care choosing a handbag or briefcase. When choosing a bag or briefcase, get one that has a strap long enough to go over your head, such as a messenger style bag that across the body. This way, you evenly distribute the weight over your body, reducing the chance of back pain. If you carry something large and heavy, you are putting strain on one side of the body. Don’t forget to regularly empty bags and suitcases to remove what you don’t need.
  10. Don’t wear a back brace. as there is little proof that they reduce back pain.