On your first visit to the physiotherapist, he or she will first determine exactly how serious the problem is. Once the most likely cause of your problem has been determined (your diagnosis has been made), you and your healthcare professional can decide on a treatment plan. One of the keys to managing back pain or neck pain is to actively engage in rehabilitation and exercise. Physical therapy helps place patients on the right track by exercising weak points and regaining strength that may have been lost.
An exercise programme should be tailored to the individual's condition and pain level, and include a combination of stretching, strengthening and aerobic conditioning. Knowing the right exercises and how to find the right trainers can be the difference between recovery and chronic pain.
The physiotherapist works to remove the cause of the damage to the spine and prevent further occurrence. Physiotherapy therefore aims to identify:
- Faulty movement patterns, for example, excessive mobility in the lumbar spine and insufficient participation in the hips and thoracic spine results in segmental overstrain and pain.
- Associated imbalance between muscles that have become too overactive and those that have become too weak, as a result of faulty movement patterns.
- Joint stiffness, soft tissue tightness and tension in the nerve structures, contributing to and resulting in faulty movement patterns.
Physiotherapy then aims to correct these problems by:
- Developing the tonic function of the deep stabiliser muscles (i.e. deep abdominals, and the gluteal/buttock muscles) to stabilise the spine initially, then
- Re-educating the body to perform new and corrected movement patterns to redistribute the forces of movement more economically, and away from the overused vulnerable segments, and
- Elongating shortened structures and mobilising neural tissues and facet joints in order to restore full and correct range of movement