Spinal rehabilitation is a broad term which refers to the identification and correction of problems of the spine and surrounding musculature to restore spinal health and optimal function. In other words, spinal rehab utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to help people regain daily activities and decrease pain. This team can consist of highly trained medical professionals like orthopedic doctors and surgeons, physical and massage therapists, chiropractors and pain management specialists.
The spinal column, also known as the vertebral column or backbone, runs from the base of the skull to the buttocks. It includes 24 vertebrae, the intervertebral discs acting as “shock absorbers" between the bones, the sacrum located in the pelvic area between the hip bones, and the coccyx or tail bone. Problems in any of these areas can encompass a wide variety of ailments.
Spinal rehabilitation can treat problems with the bones, the surrounding muscles and any collateral problems such as radiating pain symptoms. Herniated discs, where the soft central portion between the bones leaks out of its enclosure, and spinal stenosis, where the spinal canal becomes narrowed, are two problems for which a rehab program can be beneficial. Degenerative disc disease, also known as degenerative arthritis or osteoarthritis, where deformities of the bone come from normal wear-and-tear, also responds well the spinal rehab. Even facet syndrome or irritation of the joints of the spine, and injuries or pain from sports, accidents or overuse can benefit from spinal rehabilitation.
Basically, spinal rehabilitation consists of finding the injury or site of pain and using various therapeutic techniques to correct problem, relax surrounding tight muscles, decrease pain symptoms and regain functional motion. Rehab begins with finding the root of the problem. Some common procedures used are diagnostic testing like MRI’s or magnetic resonance imaging and nerve conduction tests. This is then followed by a comprehensive treatment program to reduce symptoms and restore mobility.
Orthopedic doctors and surgeons focus on the problem and how to fix them whether through invasive or non-invasive techniques, such as surgery or therapy, respectively. Some procedures orthopedic professionals employ can include things like nerve blocks, spinal decompression and spinal fusions.
Therapeutic approaches for spinal rehabilitation include things like heat or ice application and ultrasound, a device utilizing high energy sound waves to ease joint and muscle pain, and other pain or inflammation-relieving treatments. Another component of therapy involves a comprehensive exercise and stretching routine to regain normal function. Massage therapy concentrates on the muscles surrounding the area of pain and dysfunction to relieve tightness and abnormal muscle balance.
Chiropractors also play a big part in spinal rehabilitation as their focus is on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal problems. This includes the bones and the surrounding muscles to help ease pain and restore mobility. They also provide alternative methods of treatment such as manual techniques, exercise and stretching.
In short, spinal rehabilitation is the term used when there is some sort of problem with the spine or surrounding tissues. It includes a wide range of treatment options to help solve or relieve the pain and dysfunction often related to an abnormality of the spine. It is a process in which each patient receives an individual care plan to best manage their individual symptoms and functional problems to return to normal daily activities.