Should I Try Physical Therapy Before Resorting to Surgery?

Dr. Constantine Toumbis

09 August 2021

Back and neck pain can be caused by a wide range of factors including overexertion, lack of exercise, spinal conditions, poor posture and more. There are various types of physical therapies that can benefit those suffering from back pain — the key is to implement it at the right time. 

Continue reading to learn if physical therapy can help you find relief and how to determine your next steps.

How Physical Therapy Can Help


As you age, your spine undergoes many changes from the wear and tear of everyday life. In some cases, these changes can cause spinal conditions such as spinal stenosis, scoliosis, Degenerative Disc Disease, spondylolisthesis, spondylolysis and more. In other cases, some may experience back pain due to the muscles and joints that support the spine becoming weak, stiff or strained

Physical therapy can alleviate back pain, improve your spinal health, and in some cases, prevent your condition’s progression. It’s designed to improve your flexibility, range of motion, strength and mobility, which can give your spine the support it needs to heal. If you need surgery, physical therapy can help you strengthen and prepare your body, making for a smooth, quick recovery. After your spinal procedure, you will likely need to participate in physical therapy to help you recover and regain full mobility. 

How to Determine if You Need Physical Therapy

The best way to determine if physical therapy can help your back pain is by talking to a spinal specialist. We recommend seeing a back pain specialist before you go to physical therapy. They will be able to properly diagnose you, determine the severity of your condition and create a treatment plan that helps you find relief. In many cases, a spinal specialist will prescribe physical therapy or other conservative, at-home treatments before they recommend surgery. 

If physical therapy is recommended, your therapist will create a treatment plan tailored to your specific condition and needs. They may implement a variety of active therapies including stretching, strengthening and conditioning exercises, as well as passive therapies such as hot and cold therapy, massage, electrotherapy, ultrasound and more. Your spinal specialist and physical therapist should work together to create a treatment plan, measure your condition’s progression and track improvements so that they can change course accordingly.

Along with talking to your doctor, you’ll also want to speak to your insurance company. Most companies require patients to complete several weeks of conservative treatments such as physical therapy before they approve the surgery. 

When to See a Spinal Specialist

Most people experience some form of back pain throughout their life. However, if it persists longer than three months, is severe enough to impact your everyday life or is accompanied by other serious symptoms, you should talk to a spinal specialist. 

If your back pain is accompanied by the following symptoms, seek immediate medical attention as these could indicate a serious medical issue. 

  • Loss of bowel or bladder control 
  • Weakness, numbness or tingling in your extremities 
  • Fever 
  • Headache
  • Stiffness
  • Dizziness
  • Swollen neck glands 
  • Chest pressure or pain 
  • Redness or swelling in your back 
  • Weakness or loss of control of your legs 
  • Pain that worsens when you bend forward or cough 

You should also seek prompt medical attention if your back pain has occurred after a traumatic event such as a fall or car accident or if you’ve had a recent change in your medication that lists muscle spasms as a side effect. 

Choose Citrus Spine Institute to Find Relief

At Citrus Spine Institute, our team specializes in spinal health and procedures. Our team will take a look at your medical history, lifestyle, needs and symptoms to create a plan that helps you find relief. Schedule a consultation to get started.

If you are experiencing severe neck or back pain, you should never ignore or try to suffer through it. Always consult your doctor. Get a second opinion from a spinal specialist if you are not satisfied with your doctor or require specialized care.

Dr. Constantine Toumbis

Dr. Toumbis is a board certified, fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in cervical, thoracic and lumbar surgery. He received his undergraduate degree in Biology from New York University in 1987, then continued on to receive his Masters in Natural Sciences as well as a PhD in Experimental Pathology from State University of New York at Buffalo. He completed his medical degree at Wayne State University School of Medicine with a distinction in Biomedical Research. After moving to Florida to complete his internship and residency in orthopedics at the University of Florida Shands Hospital, he went on to pursue a fellowship at Cleveland Clinic's Florida Spine Institute. He moved to Citrus County and has been in private practice since 2005.

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