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Role of Physiotherapy in Spine Health

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

Physical therapists (Physiotherapists) are professionals who treat patients of all ages with back or neck disorders. Your Spine Specialist (A Neurosurgeon or Ortho-Spine Surgeon) may refer you to a physical therapist if needed, after proper evaluation as part of your non-operative plan of treatment. An organized physical therapy program may also be an integral part of your after-care following spine surgery.

Goals of Physical Therapy

The primary goals of physical therapy include: improve and maintain functional ability, build physical strength and endurance, increase flexibility, reduce pain, and prevent disability. Physiotherapists also teach patients how to exercise to improve overall physical fitness, move about safely (biomechanics and ergonomics), and injury prevention. Physical therapists also help patients with permanent physical disabilities (eg, spinal cord injury).

Physical therapy may include passive modalities; treatments the Physiotherapists administers to the patient. Modalities include ultrasound, different types of massage, myofascial release, ice and/or heat. Some of these treatments may be administered before active therapeutic exercise.

Spine-related conditions physical therapists treat include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Muscle Sprains

  • Spondylosis

  • Whiplash

  • Rebuild strength, flexibility and endurance after spine surgery, as well as specific physical needs related to surgical aftercare.

Coordinated Care

Your physical therapist may work directly for or with your medical doctor (Spine Specialist) to coordinate aspects of your physical treatment. For example, your doctor may send the physical therapist relevant portions of your chart, such as your diagnosis, current medications, and results of imaging studies.

During the initial consultation, the physical therapist talks with you about your medical history, diagnosis, and symptoms. Many patients with a back or neck disorder experience acute, chronic, and/or episodic pain. The location, severity, type, and factors that decrease or increase pain are important, and the Physiotherapist will ask you many questions about pain.

Education and Clinical Training

Physical therapists are not medical Doctors, rather they are professionals who have completed an accredited physical therapy program like BPT (Bachelor of Physical Therapy). After graduation, a Physiotherapist may advance knowledge and experience by participating in areas of their interest.

What can go wrong

Although it is usually safe for you to undergo physiotherapy, it is strongly recommended for you to always first take opinion of a Spine Specialist (A Neurosurgeon or Ortho-Spine Surgeon) who is a medical Doctor and has been formally trained in providing complete Spine treatment.

A Spine Specialist can evaluate if your spine is not having any instability or serious condition which can further deteriorate with Physiotherapy and can cause permanent neurological damage like paralysis or urinary or faecal incontinence. Once a Spine Specialist has evaluated your condition and he finds it suitable for you to undergo Physiotherapy then only you should go to a Physiotherapist.

Although you can certainly ask your doctor for a recommendation, what questions should you keep in mind about selecting a physical therapist? Listed below are some questions to consider.

  • What is the physical therapist’s educational and training background?

  • Does the physical therapist regularly treat patients with my problem?

  • How many times per week do I need physical therapy?

  • Will the physical therapist provide me with a customized home exercise plan?

  • Am I more comfortable with a male or female physical therapist?

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