Rehabilitation for Spinal Conditions
Rehabilitation for spinal problems may be prescribed before or after spinal surgery, or in the hope that it will make surgery unnecessary. Whenever it is prescribed, rehabilitation for the back is designed to reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, and restore strength and mobility. Sometimes, treatment also attempts to realign mild anatomical deformities that may be the result of congenital defects, diseases or injuries. Physical rehabilitation for spinal problems includes ice, heat, hydrotherapy, massage, electrical stimulation and ultrasound, in addition to physical exercises specifically tailored to strengthen the spine.
Depending on the patient's progress and insurance coverage, rehabilitation for spinal problems typically lasts from 6 weeks to several months. Patients usually attend physical therapy sessions 2 to 3 times per week, with each session lasting from 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Patients undergo rehabilitation for various spinal problems, including the following, that may be causing them acute or chronic pain:
- 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, because 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. Based on the patient's overall medical condition, rate of improvement and presenting symptoms, trained therapists know when and how to increase and decrease activity levels.
Types of physical rehabilitation exercises for spinal problems cater to the specific needs of individual patients, and include the following:
- 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 complete, usually after a period of several months. Depending on the nature of their spinal problems and whether or not corrective surgery will be, or has been, performed, patients are individually advised about when they can resume normal daily activities. Overall medical condition, state of fitness, age and probable rate of healing are all taken into account.