Physical therapy is one of the most common non-surgical spine rehabilitation options available. Most people are familiar with exercises and occupational physical therapy, but not everyone is aware of passive physical therapy. Both kinds are employed by physical therapists to improve the spine’s functions and reduce or remove pain. Aside from therapists, neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons and physiatrists will also be involved in the treatment.
At the beginning of the therapy, a licensed physical therapist will examine the patient. A treatment plan is written, then implemented. The input of the referring physician is considered along with the test results. During therapy, there will be constant communication with the doctors to check progress.
There are several passive physical therapies that can be used to improve your condition. The first thing often prescribed is rest. This helps reduce soreness and helps the spine heal on its own. Painful joints may only need a little time of inactivity to improve. In case you still feel pain after surgery or treatment, it means that there your spine is still sore or inflamed. In this case, activity should be avoided and a brace may be necessary.
Specific rest may also be prescribed. This is done to protect the sore spot to help it heal, while also allowing and promoting minimal movement of the muscles and joints on either side of a painful area. If you are wearing a brace, you may be asked to remove it a couple of times a day to do some gentle exercises.
Your physical therapist will also guide you in searching for the correct resting or sleeping position. There may even be advice on how you can best hold your spine while working.
Ice and heat may also be applied to the area. Cold promotes vasoconstrict, meaning your blood vessels get smaller. This slows the circulation and helps treat pain, muscle spasms and inflammation. On the other hand, heat makes blood vessels vasodilate, or get larger. It improves circulation and helps flush away chemicals that are causing the pain. This also brings nutrients and oxygen to the affected area.
Ultrasound can also be used to treat tissues that are over two inches below the skin. An ultrasound machine is used to transmit high-frequency sound waves to the affected area. Molecules vibrate when they pass through the tissues of your body, resulting in warmth and friction. This improves circulation and brings in fresh blood with nutrients and oxygen while at the same time removing the bad blood.
A massage therapist can also be brought in to remove pain and toxins. It also relaxes the body, reduces pain and treats spasms. It improves circulation, and soft tissue massages relax tight muscles and help them get back to normal.
One of the main causes of spine pain is a problem with the joints. Graded pressures and movements may be done to ease stiffness and help increase your mobility. This lubricates joint surfaces and prevents them from grinding against each other. As the treatment progresses, more force may be applied to improve the tissues around the joint as well.
Active physical therapy involves controlled and measured exercises that aim to get you back on your feet as soon as possible. This includes flexing exercises. These exercises allow you to get used to having your spine in the proper position. It would also reduce pain. Gentle stretching also helps prevent recurrence of the spinal disorder by increasing flexibility and loosening tight muscles that may cause an imbalance in the spine movement.
Stabilizing therapeutic exercises strengthen the core muscles. These are the muscles at the center of your body and found around your spine. The stronger these muscles are, the easier it will be to keep your spine in the right position.
Coordination exercises may also be prescribed to ensure that your muscles are working together. Your muscles need to be trained on how to move properly since muscles that do not work well together lead to re-injury.
Physical therapy also aims to improve overall fitness to prevent recurrence of the spine problem and help with the recovery. These are often aerobic exercises that aim to bring more oxygen to your muscles. It also releases endorphins that help counteract the pain. Typical fitness conditioning routines include walking on a treadmill, using a stair stepper, swimming laps or using a cross-country ski machine.
Rehabilitation can also include functional training. This aims to improve your movements as you go about doing your regular activities. Posture is looked into to make sure that your spine is properly aligned. A poor posture puts additional strain on the soft tissues and joints around the spine.
Body mechanics is simply the application of proper posture as you do mundane activities. This includes brushing your teeth, lifting, taking out the trash and getting out of a chair. Your therapist will tell you the right way to do all of those. This may also be applied to ergonomics, with the therapist looking at your office or work area to see if any bad habits there are contributing to your spine problem.