Physical therapy for the spine


By Dan Skulavik - Contributing columnist



The spinal column supports the body and provides the structural framework for muscles and bones in the trunk region. It is a bony framework that protects the spinal cord, which serves as a channel of communication between the brain and the rest of the body. It serves as an anchor for a network of muscles that surround the trunk and help in movement and stability of the trunk region.

Every time we pull, push, twist, bend and stretch the spine or lift a heavy object, we challenge the muscles surrounding the spinal column. Controlled exercise, under the supervision of a physical therapist, challenges these muscles and helps improve posture and ‘core strength’.

The strength and stability of these muscles is critical to the functioning of vital organs in the trunk region, including the stomach (digestion), lungs (breathing) and liver (detoxification).

We live in an age in which technology allows individuals to achieve more, while becoming increasingly sedentary. Lack of exercise and poor strength in the abdominal and lower back muscles can lead to a chain reaction of problems over a period of time.

Initial symptoms include aches and pains after long periods of sitting. Poor posture and wrong movement patterns can lead to pain and stiffness in the upper and lower back. A vicious cycle of weakness and pain can increase the possibility of injuries like herniated discs. There are times when individuals experience sharp pain when bending forward, twisting, laughing and sneezing.

When an injury occurs, the first thing to avoid is further motion, since this can increase the severity of the injury. Symptoms such as tingling, numbness and muscle weakness may indicate involvement of the nerves, and medical advice should be sought immediately. The traditional approach of rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) is important during the early stage of injury. A physician may request additional tests to identify the extent of injury, and may recommend prescription medication to reduce pain and inflammation.

An initial assessment by the physical therapist will help identify the cause and extent of injury. Combined with diagnostic testing and medication (as advised by a physician), physical therapy can help with pain relief and increase in range of motion in the acute stage.

As the patient improves, the therapist may decide to use ultrasound wave treatment and mild electric stimulation. As the pain reduces, the therapist prescribes a progressive, supervised exercise program. The entire plan of care promotes healing, reduces pain and improves function.

There are several things that physical therapy can do for you. Decreased pain, improved strength and mobility and a higher quality of life are just a few examples of the benefits of physical therapy. The strength and stability of your spinal muscles is one of the most important aspects of your well-being, and we encourage you to schedule an appointment with us. You might be surprised with the things you discover after an initial evaluation with us.

Dr. Daniel Skulavik, PT, DPT, OCS, is with Advanced Physical Therapy located in the Food Lion Shopping Center, Clinton.

By Dan Skulavik

Contributing columnist

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Dr. Daniel Skulavik, PT, DPT, OCS, is with Advanced Physical Therapy located in the Food Lion Shopping Center, Clinton.

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