Therapy is an intervention that is a component in the non-operative care of the spine and may also be included as part of post-operative recovery. A licensed physical therapist has obtained a master’s or doctoral level degree in the field. They are trained to work with patient’s to improve symptoms, strengthen major muscle groups thus helping to prevent further injury and improve the patient’s overall condition. Likewise, therapist can also work to retrain the patient to improve body mechanics with lifting, posture and walking that are beneficial in injury prevention.
Physical therapy can involve passive treatments or modalities such as ultrasound, hot and cold therapy, TENS units and massage, as well as passive range of motion and active treatments that include strengthening and conditioning exercises.
- Ultrasound – placing an ultrasound device on the muscle that uses sound waves to increase blood flow and circulation to decrease muscle spasm
- Hot and Cold Therapy – placement of heat on a muscle to increase blood flow; placement of cold on a muscle to reduce inflammation and pain
- TENS Units (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) – stimulation of the muscle with electrical impulses, at varying degrees
- Massage – typically performed prior to active exercises to improve circulation, warm muscles and relieve muscle tension, spasms and inflammation.
- Passive Range of Motion – the therapist moves the patient’s extremities to improve range of motion and flexibility
Initially, a physical therapist may obtain a detailed history of the patient’s symptoms and perform an assessment of their condition. This will involve determining flexibility, alignment and overall motion to determine the patient’s present condition. From there, a treatment plan will be developed. As a patient progresses in treatment, a reassessment should be performed to determine the evolving goals.
Physical therapy is not just at a gym. Although many physical therapy programs can include time in a pool, there are many home regimes that can also be taught to patients. Likewise, many of the strengthening exercises provided should be continued throughout a patient’s life in hopes of preventing further injury by maintaining strength, joint mobility and overall flexibility.
For further details regarding the use of physical therapy in the management of spine disorders, please refer to www.spineuniverse.com/article/back-pain-physical-therapy-treatments-3912.html. Physical therapy requires a prescription from a physician and locations are dictated by your insurance company.