Physical therapy (PT) and physiotherapy are sometimes called functional rehabilitation. Your doctor prescribes PT to help you improve and maintain your functional abilities necessary to carry out activities of daily living. PT may be included in your conservative, non-operative treatment or added to spine surgery aftercare.
Physical therapists are skilled and certified professionals who receive extensive training in passive and active therapies, and biomechanics. Some physical therapists specialize in a part of the body or work with patients with a particular problem, such as neck or back pain.
Your doctor prescribes physical therapy. In turn, the physical therapist, based on your prescription customizes your program. The program considers your existing condition and treatment goals. Your program gradually changes and progresses with your physical readiness and needs. Your physical therapy program may include one or all three types of treatment.
Passive therapy requires little, if any patient participation. The physical therapist administers treatment to the patient, and includes massage, traction and ultrasound.
Active therapies include therapeutic exercise to help you increase your flexibility, strength, balance, coordination, and endurance.
Biomechanics involves posture correction and learning how to move properly and safely.
Cold therapies help reduce inflammation and pain by reducing blood flow. Because excessive cold (temperature, duration) can injure soft tissue (skin), a barrier, such as a towel is placed between the skin and cold source.
Heat therapy increases blood circulation and, thereby aids healing and relaxes stiff, sore muscles. Blood circulation delivers healing nutrients and removes cellular waste from an injury site.
Electrical stimulation, or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), delivers mild and painless electrical current through the skin targeting specific nerves. The mild heat produced by the current helps to alleviate stiffness, reduce pain, and increase range of motion.
Manual therapy includes manipulation and mobilization, which involves increasing joint motion and reducing pain. Manipulation is specific, controlled, quick movements that release a joint into its correct position. Manipulation and mobilization may ease muscle spasm.
Massage can help reduce muscle spasm. There are many different types of massage therapy.
Myofascial release is localized massage aimed at a particular muscle’s fascia; the connective tissue that encases individual and groups of muscle. The therapist uses their fingers, palms, elbows, and forearms to release tight fascia and increase mobility and reduce pain.
Spinal decompression machines use computer guidance to apply traction to your cervical (neck) or lumbar (low back) spine. Traction decompresses spinal nerves by distracting disc space and increasing the size of neural passageways. Our practice utilizes the Accu-SPINA Therapy Table system. This spinal decompression system applies controlled, gentle tension to the neck and low back.
Ultrasound uses high-energy sound waves to transmit heat deep into soft tissues (ligaments, muscles). A hypoallergenic gel is applied to the skin to reduce friction. Then the ultrasound device is gently moved on the skin’s surface to aid circulation, healing, reduce a muscle spasm, inflammation and pain.
Aquatic therapy is exercising in a pool. In the water, your body floats. The benefits of buoyancy make exercise easier by supporting your body and reducing joint stress and pain. However, moving in the water creates resistance that can help build muscle strength. Some patients may start to exercise in a pool and progress to a land-based program.
Therapeutic exercises are chosen to improve your flexibility, muscle strength and tone, and reduce pain. Many of these exercises benefit your balance and coordination. Increased circulation stimulates your cardiovascular system and may help you sleep better. Of course, passive therapy and/or warm up activities—such as walking on a treadmill or stationary cycling—start your active therapy.
Biomechanics refers to the body’s mechanics during movement. Whether you are sitting still, walking or lifting a box to carry—using good biomechanics can help reduce your risk for injury, such as low back sprain or strain. Your physical therapist teaches you how to correct your posture and maintain good posture during movement to reduce back stress and strain.