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Back Pain Increased After Physiotherapy: Tips for Relief

When you start treating your pain, it can behave in unexpected ways. Many people experience more back pain after a physiotherapy session than they did before. We’ve talked about the possible reasons for that in our previous blog post.

Understanding how to manage and ease this increased back pain is necessary for sustaining your progress and achieving long-term relief.

Keep reading for our tips for preventing discomfort after a physio session along with reasons why they help.

1.   Apply Heat or Cold Therapy

We’ve all heard this one, right?

You get injured playing football; your coach tells you to put ice on it. Your body aches after driving all day; your wife gives you a hot water bottle to help you relax.

The science behind warm compress and ice packs is interesting. Heat therapy opens the blood vessels, making them wider to increase circulation and oxygen flow to the area. This speeds up healing and eases stiffness.

Cold therapy, on the other hand, can slow blood flow which helps to reduce swelling, inflammation, and acute pain. Cold also acts on your nerves and sensors, making you feel numb around the area.

Ready for the interesting bit? When you remove an ice pack and your body starts returning to the normal temperature, your blood vessels widen even more than they were at baseline. That effect is like what happens when you apply a warm compress.

Pretty cool, isn’t it?

That’s why we use contrast therapy a lot. That involves fluctuating hot compress and cold pack to double the healing effect. But you do need to understand the body’s operating system and processes for that, so we recommend sticking with just a hot water bottle or ice pack at home.

Application guidelines: For heat therapy, apply a warm compress to the affected area for 15-20 minutes. Avoid direct skin contact to prevent burns. Wrap ice packs in a cloth for cold therapy and apply for 10-15 minutes. Never apply ice directly to the skin to avoid frostbite.

2.   Gentle Stretching and Mobility Exercises

Gentle stretching involves slow and controlled movements to extend your muscles beyond their baseline. It enhances flexibility and mobility without straining your back or making the back pain worse.

Remember we mentioned heat increases circulation and that more blood flow brings in more nutrients to the injured site? Stretching does the same thing and that’s one of the reasons why it feels so relaxing.

Gentle mobility exercises increase the range of motion and blood circulation. They prevent muscle stiffness and activate your nervous system, releasing feel-good hormones. Our bodies are magical like that.

How to do it? Focus on slow, controlled stretches without bouncing or overextending. Only extend to the point where it isn’t painful, and you feel like you could hold on for at least a minute. Hold each stretch for about 20-30 seconds, and repeat a few times, ensuring not to push into pain. Slowly, you can increase the range. Your body will tell you when it’s okay to do so.

3.   Stay Hydrated

The increased back pain in your back after physiotherapy isn’t because of what you or your therapist did on your back.

Our body works as one unit. So, if one aspect, such as your nutrition, sleep, stress, or hydration, are out of order, then your back pain will feel worse.

Sufficient hydration is required for the proper functioning of your muscles and joints. Water helps carry nutrients to the healing tissues and flush out the waste that your body produces when it’s repairing itself – all things that are vital for recovery from back pain. It also maintains your body temperature and helps fight inflammation.

How much water do I need? I don’t think I have to tell you how much water to drink because we all remember the “8 glasses of water daily” mantra from when we were kids. That’s still true today. The UK guidelines are to drink at least 1.2 litres of water daily,  more if you are active or in hot environments.

The best gauge is your urine colour – it should be pale yellow. If it gets darker, drink more water and electrolytes.

4.   Optimal Nutrition for Healing

Continuing from the last point, consuming a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and anti-inflammatory compounds can significantly support the body’s healing processes.

Protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants play crucial roles in tissue repair. They reduce inflammation and strengthen muscles, which is essential for recovering from back pain after physiotherapy.

Guidelines: Incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains into your diet. Consider foods like berries, nuts, salmon, and leafy green vegetables, which are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. If you need more help, consult with a nutritionist. We’ve seen this approach do wonders for our patients with long-term (chronic) or recurrent back pain.

5.   Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

The “self-care days” and mental health weekends aren’t just for Gen Z. These can help you ease your back pain after physiotherapy if you give them a chance.

Start by practising:

  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Meditation (distracting your mind with happy thoughts and focusing on good stuff)
  • Progressive muscle relaxation (tense your muscles in a specific part and relax, then do it all over your body and really understand what relaxed muscles feel like).

These can reduce stress and promote mental well-being, which will reduce your back pain and speed up recovery.

We mentioned in our previous blog that stress can increase your feeling of physical pain.

Mindfulness and relaxation not only aid in managing stress but also help in reducing the perception of pain, promoting a holistic approach to recovery.

How can I meditate for back pain? Dedicate a few minutes each day to practise deep breathing or meditation. For progressive muscle relaxation, tense each muscle group in the body tightly, but not to the point of strain, and then slowly relax them, progressing from the toes to the head. Talk to us about the different ways you can practise. We’d be happy to give you personalised tips based on our experiences with other patients like yourself.

Your Next Steps

We know that some of these strategies for managing and reducing your back pain following physiotherapy sessions may seem like common knowledge. But we share them only because we’ve seen them work for our patients.

Try them out for a smoother recovery and to enhance your overall well-being. If you need more support, reach out to us at our clinics in Eltham, Battersea or Norbury.