As the spine ages or sustains injury, it can become painful and unstable. In the early stages of degeneration or shortly after an injury, specific levels of the spine can potentially begin to move incorrectly. This often manifests as difficulty with range of motion such as flexing forward or lifting objects from the floor. For the spine to function properly, these specific levels must move in sync with one another. This is controlled by the muscles of the spine. When and injury occurs or we begin to suffer from the effects of age related degeneration, these muscle could potentially be shut down by pain and inflammation. This could be referred to as an instability. There are varying degrees of instability. More often than not, the early stages of instability can be treated conservatively with active rest, possibly medication, and more importantly physical therapy. Occasionally minor instabilities may go away on their own. Left untreated, patients will often experience reoccurring back or neck pain. Again, these episodes may come and go but eventually it could lead to more serious instabilities over time that are more difficult to treat conservatively. Moreover, chronic or reoccurring instability has the potential to perpetuate degenerative changes of the spine. Medically, this may include a diagnosis of degenerative disc disease or osteoarthritis of the spine.
How can we prevent reoccurrence? We can never truly guarantee a patient will never reinjure their spine, however, through conservative treatment, we hope to reduce the chances of reoccurrence. Physicians often refer patients with back or neck pain to physical therapy (PT). The goal: Inhibit pain and guarding through manual therapy (joint mobilization and gentle massage); mobilize or stretch stiff joints; strengthen and stabilize these minor instabilities through therapeutic exercise. The ultimate goal is to get patients back to their lifestyle. There are some instances where individuals may need to consider lifestyle changes to accommodate a specific spinal condition. Patients will also need to adopt a lifestyle that includes healthier choices such as diet and exercise. A comprehensive PT program will often times culminate with progression to a home exercise program (HEP). The HEP is vital to maintenance and achieving ongoing improvement independently.
If you have experienced occasional episodes of neck or low back pain, do not hesitate to contact us at Prairie Spine and Pain Institute in Peoria, IL. Our team can provide you with a comprehensive spinal examination and recommend proper treatment. Our PT department is equipped with state of the art exercise equipment to help patients get back to their families, jobs, hobbies and lifestyle. We are proud to have a residency trained physical therapist that has extensive training in orthopedic manual physical therapy and many years of experience treating spinal related conditions.