The Benefits of & Differences Between Active & Passive Back Injury Treatment

Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi


When is comes to treating back injuries, what works for one person isn’t guaranteed to work for another, even if they’re dealing with similar injuries. However, most people find more success in their treatment if they pursue active treatment options.

For most spine injuries, your doctor is going to recommend a combination of active and passive treatment techniques. But what’s the difference between active and passive treatment options, and what active treatment options usually yield the best results? We answer those questions and more in today’s blog.

Active Vs. Passive Back Pain Treatments

The difference between an active and passive treatment option is that active treatment options involve a physical action on the part of the patient. Active treatments, as the name implies, actively work to strengthen key spine structures or increase functional motion in the area. Passive treatments can also be helpful in the recovery process, but they aren’t going to allow full treatment on their own.

Another way to look at is that in general, passive treatments treat the pain associated with an injury, while active treatments address the underlying source of pain. Both are important, but treating the source of the pain tends to yield better results than treating a symptom of the cause of pain.

So although active treatment techniques are ideal, your doctor will probably recommend a combination of both active and passive treatments. Here’s a look at examples of each technique.

  • Active Treatments – Some common active treatment options include physical therapy, stretching techniques, low- to moderate-intensity exercise, strength training, balance training or activities like yoga or Tai Chi.
  • Passive Treatments – Passive treatment options include treatments like pain medications, rest, activity modification or immobilization. These help to prevent pain, but in most cases they don’t strengthen to treat the root cause of injury.

Other treatments fall somewhere in the middle. For example, pain injections on their own are more of a passive treatment technique, but if these injections allow you to be comfortable enough to participate in physical therapy, it can be an essential part of rehab. Another treatment that falls somewhere in between is a back brace. If the brace is just limiting movement to prevent pain, it’s more of a passive option, but if the brace is preventing worsening scoliosis, it may actually be a partly active treatment technique.

When it comes to treating your back pain, try to find more active than passive techniques, but your best bet is to listen to your back doctor. For more information or to talk to a specialist about your back pain, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi today.

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