Rehabilitation for spinal problems may be prescribed before or after spinal surgery, or in the hope that the therapy will make the surgery unnecessary. Whenever it is prescribed, physical therapy for the back is designed to reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, and restore strength and mobility. Sometimes, this treatment also attempts to realign mild anatomical deformities that may be the result of congenital defects, diseases or injuries. Physical rehabilitation for spinal problems may include ice, heat, hydrotherapy, massage, electrical stimulation and ultrasound, in addition to physical exercises specifically tailored to strengthen the spine.
Rehabilitation for spinal problems typically continues for 6 weeks to several months, depending on the patient’s progress and on insurance coverage. Patients normally attend physical therapy sessions two to three times per week, with each session lasting from 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Patients undergo rehabilitation for various spinal problems that may be causing them acute or chronic pain including:
- Degenerated or herniated discs
- Strained, sprained or torn ligaments
- Strained, sprained or torn tendons
- Sciatica or other spinal nerve compression
It is important that patients have professionally trained therapists work with them since too much exercise too soon can exacerbate, rather than improve, their conditions. Rehabilitation specialists are trained to help patients move at a safe, progressive pace, and to work rest periods into exercise regimens. These therapists know when and how to increase and decrease activity levels based on the patient’s overall medical condition, rate of improvement and presenting symptoms.
Types of physical rehabilitation exercises for spinal problems cater to the specific needs of individual patients. They include:
- Stretching for increased flexibility
- Leg lifts and pelvic tilts for muscle strength
- Low-impact aerobics for cardiovascular strength
Throughout the rehabilitation process, patients gradually increase activity levels and learn new ways of moving to keep themselves as flexible as possible. Heavy lifting and other types of strenuous activities are restricted until healing is completed, usually a period of several months. Patients will be individually advised about when they may resume normal daily activities, depending on the nature of their spinal problem and whether or not corrective surgery is going to be, or has been, performed. Their overall medical condition, state of fitness, age and perceived rate of healing, are all taken into account.