Back pain - overview, symptoms

Few ailments are as painful or common as back pain. So many Americans suffer with it, that it's actually the leading reason Americans miss work.

There are several different types of back pain - all are self descriptive. They are: lower back pain (pain in your lower back), middle back pain (pain in the middle of your back), and upper back pain (pain in the uppermost part of your back).


  • Muscle ache
  • Shooting or stabbing pain
  • Leg pain
  • Limited range of motion of the back

What causes back pain?

There are multiple causes of back pain. It can start without any probable cause or be exacerbated by a strenuous event or activity. Most of the time it is not just one event that causes injury to the back. We typically find that it is prolonged poor positioning, or repeated movements in the wrong direction that create an imbalance in the spine. This imbalance is what leads to injury.

Do I need an X-ray or MRI?

The majority of back pain is not caused by any serious underlying condition. X-rays and MRIs are rarely necessary and often leads to increases in healthcare cost.  70% of the pain-free adult population has abnormal findings in their imaging, including degenerative disc disease, arthritis, disc bulges, disc herniations, spondylosis, stenosis, and bone spurs. These findings in your X-rays and MRIs may lead to further imaging, referrals to specialists, injections, nerve ablations and surgery, that may try to fix an abnormality that is not the root cause of your pain. An alternative is visiting a physical therapist and them performing a detailed assessment of movement patterns to determine the root cause of your back pain.

Back pain treatment options

Back pain is often recurrent, meaning it comes back. That is why it is imperative that you learn to manage and prevent it. This course of action looks different for each patient but often a good option is to visit your local physical therapist. They will be able to develop a custom treatment program for you, which will be geared towards ending back pain completely, not just dulling the pain you are experiencing right now.

What does physical therapy treatment for back pain look like?

First, a thorough evaluation must be completed to determine the root cause, whether it be posture, poor body mechanics, weakness, muscle imbalance etc.. Determining the most appropriate movements, stretches and exercises to restore function is a big part of what we do here at Rise. Sometimes, the body needs a little nudge to get moving in the right direction so we also utilize manual therapy techniques. These techniques allow your body to get moving safely and efficiently.

Our end goal is that you are able to walk away pain-free in the short term and also possess the know-how to avoid back pain in the future.

About Rise Physical Therapy

Hi, and welcome to Rise Physical Therapy.

Rise exists because we believe there is a demand for honest and ethical therapy that truly makes a difference in people's lives. After years of working in healthcare, we realized that the industry had lost it's focus on the patient. So we decided to start our own clinic and focus on providing our patients the very best in one-on-one physical therapy. We wouldn't have it any other way.

Thanks for swinging by the site, and we hope to see you soon.

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Most common questions about physical therapy

1. What is physical therapy (PT)? – Physical therapists, sometimes called PTs, are experts in the musculoskeletal system, meaning we know your muscles, bones, joints, tendons, ligaments and how they operate as well as anyone. We play a critical role in the recovery and rehabilitation of the injured, hurting, or those suffering chronic conditions. Becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy (the only type of PTs we hire at Rise), requires over seven years of education.

2. Is PT covered by insurance? Almost all insurance plans give you an annual allowance of PT visits. For our current patients, that has typically meant a copay of around $15-$30/visit. Sometimes it’s lower, or even completely covered by insurance. Depending on your plan you might pay a bit more, such as when your plan has a higher deductible. If you are unsure, give us a call and our insurance experts can help you figure it out. You can reach us at (479) 595-8667.

3. Do you need a doctor’s referral for PT?No referral is needed – you can come straight in to see us without having to go to your doctor. Years ago a referral was required, but studies like this showed it was dramatically more effective and cheaper for patients to be sent to PTs first. The state of Arkansas has not required them for over 20 years (since 1997).

4. Does physical therapy work? – The only question that matters. Here’s what a recent large study found: “In the year following their initial complaint to primary providers, the sample of people in the study who went to physical therapy directly spent an average of $1,871, compared to $6,664 for those who were first sent for an MRI. The patients who received physical therapy first were less likely to receive surgery and injections, and they made fewer specialists and emergency department visits within a year of primary consultation.” [link] So not only does it work, it saves you money over the long run.

5. How much does PT cost? – We actually went ahead and ran the numbers on this one. If you include all of our past patients, the average payment after insurance was $19.25. So anywhere from $15 – $30 is a fairly accurate estimate of how much you’d be looking at paying per visit. That said, some patients actually get PT completely covered by insurance so you may end up paying $0.

6. What is the difference between a PT and a chiropractor? – There are quite a few, but the biggest difference is in the way the professions approach the practice of medicine. Physical therapists strictly use evidence-based (scientific) treatments that are focused on healing the patient permanently rather than temporarily dulling pain. At Rise, we are all about educating you on how to treat and address your issues on your own with stretches and exercises. On the other hand, Chiropractors tend to focus on pain relief techniques like spinal manipulation (adjustment) that are performed on an ongoing basis. It just comes down to what you desire in a treatment.

More questions? Read through the rest of our frequently asked questions here or give us a call at (479) 595-8667.