Whether it’s wearing a hat and gloves on cold days or not swimming after a meal, there are many pieces of advice that may not seem all that important when first offered. Of course, if you end up catching a cold or getting stomach cramps, then the value of the advice just mentioned suddenly becomes clear. This same concept applies to physical therapy (PT). Some PT patients don’t fully commit to their program because the value of doing so isn’t always evident. The trusted Los Angeles spine surgeons at The Spine Institute suggest taking a moment to learn why you shouldn’t ignore your spine-related PT program.
1. Lack of a Full Recovery
Being sidelined by backaches or related symptoms can be a major distraction. However, most patients who successfully complete a PT program end up with less discomfort and fewer instances of recurring pain. Recommended exercises, including those you can do on your own between sessions, are designed to strengthen spine-supporting muscles. Doing these exercises can take pressure off the spine and allow it to heal better. Stronger muscles also take some of the pressure off the spine, which reduces the risk of future injuries. If you stop actively participating when you start to feel better, you may experience:
- Pain that returns when muscles become weak again
- Increased risk of reinjury to the same part of the spine
- Less of an ability to fully return to your previous activity level
2. Reduced Mobility
One of the common goals of PT for spine-related issues is to increase mobility, which is usually a gradual process. Because healing takes time, you may not be aware of how much your routines are increasing the ability to make your daily movements without limitations and pain.
Stopping your PT program early may leave you with about 75-90 percent mobility. Though this may be an improvement over where you were at when your pain was more severe, limitations in mobility could keep you from being as active as you want to be or prevent you from doing certain work-related movements without discomfort. Plus, it can be difficult to restore full mobility if you decide to restart PT again in the future.
3. Excessive Scar Tissue Risk
Scar tissue is formed around damaged tissues as a protective mechanism to help with healing, but too much scar tissue can place pressure on sensitive spinal nerves. PT exercises reduce the risk of excessive scar tissue by:
- Safely maintaining enough motion to prevent it from forming
- Increasing circulation to promote faster tissue healing so scar tissue won’t naturally form
- Using therapeutic techniques that may safely minimize or break up scar tissue
4. Longer Recovery Periods
Another important goal with a PT program is to facilitate your body’s natural healing process as much as possible. If you don’t fully commit to your sessions or follow recommendations, you may not get to where you want to be as soon as you want to get there, which could be especially frustrating if your goals with PT include:
- Being ready in time for an upcoming game
- Returning to a job that involves regular physical movement
- Resuming a fairly active lifestyle
5. Better Sense of Control and Accomplishment
If you don’t feel like you have any control over your spine pain or recovery, you’re more likely to be anxious or depressed, which could further contribute to your discomfort. With a PT program, you’ll have a greater sense of control for the following reasons:
- Small, realistic goals are set, so it’s easier to feel a sense of accomplishment
- Therapists are trained to clearly explain what’s likely causing the spine pain and how specific exercises or techniques may ease it
- PT specialists know how to work around unexpected setbacks in a way that can get you back on track without derailing your determination to see positive results
Finally, you’ll only get more out of your PT sessions if you honestly communicate with your therapist. If, for instance, there are certain exercises or therapeutic techniques you find uncomfortable or not especially helpful, let your therapist know. Oftentimes, adjustments can be made to create a program better tailored to your preferences while still achieving the same goals.
You might need to begin a PT program after having spinal fusion. Los Angeles residents who are considering a fusion procedure or another type of spinal surgery should get in touch with The Spine Institute today. Call 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.