How Long Should You Do Physical Therapy For A Back Injury?

Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi


Physical therapy is one of if not the most commonly prescribed treatment regimens for mild to severe cases of back pain. It’s a preferred treatment because it actively works to strengthen critical structures and stabilize areas so your spine can better handle stress, and unlike painkillers, there is no risk of addiction or dependence.

So while PT is commonly prescribed, is there a way to determine when your physical therapy has run its course? Should you keep going to your sessions, or can you safely stop PT? Below, we explain how to safely stop attending your PT sessions for certain types of back injuries.

Ending Your PT Routine

Knowing when to end your physical therapy routine depends on what you talked about with your physical therapist during your first session. During your first visit, you’ll hopefully talk about your goals and where you want to be at the end of your rehab. Do you want to be completely pain free? Do you want to be able to stand up for a couple of hours without problems? Do you want to be able to hike your favorite path or bike 20 miles? Setting some ultimate goals will help you determine if you’ve made enough progress to end your PT routine.

So while you’ll set some long-term goals during PT, you’ll also have some short term goals. You have to learn to walk before you can run, and you have to slowly strengthen some parts of your spine before you can get closer to your ultimate goals. It’s important to have ongoing conversations with your physical therapist or your spine surgeon to ensure you have appropriate goals and that you’re working towards them correctly. You want to set the bar high, but at the same time, if you have unrealistically high expectations, you may find yourself angry with your lack of progress, and this can lead you to stop attending PT altogether.

When it comes to knowing when you’ve had enough physical therapy, it’s really a determination that should be made after talking with your physical therapist. If they believe that you are still making progress and have room for improvement, stick with the program. Even if you’re failing to see progress but you’re still not as healthy as you’d like to be, keep working to strengthen your back. However, if you’ve achieved your long-term goals and your physical therapist believes that there’s nothing else to gain from continued sessions, you can safely end your PT routine.

Minnesota Spine Surgery

That being said, just because your physical therapy sessions are over doesn’t mean that you can avoid good exercise habits. Even though you’re not attending physical therapy, use that time to exercise or strengthen your spine in other ways. Go for a run, swim some laps or bike around the city. Do something active to challenge your spine and continue to strengthen key structures. You may not notice any more improvement, but exercise and strength training can help to prevent recurrences or future problems that may need physical therapy. Prevention is always preferred to treatment, so even though PT is over, keep on working those spinal muscle groups to prevent future injuries.

For more information about your PT program or your spine discomfort, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.

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