Physical Therapy News Letter September 5, 2016
Spinal fusion is a type of surgery that permanently connects two or more vertebrae in the spine. It eliminates motion and immobilizes that part of the spine to correct a number of conditions for improved stability and to reduce pain. The services of a physical therapist following surgery helps with pain relief, teaches new ways to move, and aids in environmental accommodations to make everyday tasks easier.
The procedure is utilized to repair broken vertebrae, correct deformities, and treat a herniated disk or spondylolisthesis. The surgery may also be used to relieve spinal weakness and instability. In some instances, it’s used to treat chronic lower back pain that’s not associated with a specific disease or disorder.
Spinal fusion will change the way individuals move and places additional stress on the spine above and below the location of the surgery. Most people don’t think about their ability to bend, move and twist, but patients will need to make adaptations and learn new ways of sitting, standing, walking and moving following fusion surgery.
The extent of the changes will depend on the vertebrae that were fused. Physical therapy is essential and will be an ongoing process. The procedure addresses current needs, but without appropriate therapy, further degeneration and pain may occur in the future. Physical therapy provides techniques and advanced technology to address the range of changing needs that result from spinal fusion.
Patients are often afraid to participate in any type of physical activity following spinal fusion. They fear a recurrence of the pain or that it will inhibit healing, when movement is the best therapy for recovery and rehabilitation. Physical therapy can begin any time following surgery and is beneficial for alleviating pain, to accelerate healing and reducing the risk of injury as patients learn new movement patterns.
Exercise programs typically begin 4 to 6 weeks following surgery for the most rapid decline in pain and disability prevention. A physical therapy program for spinal fusion is necessarily gentle and doesn’t require vigorous workouts. Therapy assists patients in preventing damage to surrounding soft tissues as they learn new movement patterns and aids in keeping the spine in proper alignment.
We’re aware of the special challenges facing those who have undergone spinal fusion and have multiple therapies that can be used in combination to relieve pain, facilitate functionality and reduce the risk of future injuries. Heat and cold therapies offer pain relief and advanced methods that include ultrasound therapy and electrical stimulation may be utilized.
Gentle exercise programs that include yoga and clinical Pilates are essential and effective for building strength, stability and endurance. At-home exercise programs keep patients mobile and ensure no progress is lost between clinic visits.
Our therapists provide guidance on new ways to move and accomplish tasks, along with instruction with a variety of mobility aids ranging from canes to motorized conveyances. They provide advice on ergonomic and environmental changes that can be made to reduce the risk of injuries and improve quality of life.
As patients recover, weight gain, sore muscles and depression may be considerations that can be alleviated with therapeutic massage. It’s beneficial before and after therapy sessions to loosen and prepare the body for exercise and to relax the body afterward. It aids in restorative sleep, elevates mood and helps with depression. Massage stimulates the immune system and circulation for healing.
Different therapies are used at specific junctures of recovery. We add more dynamic movements, low-impact aerobics for conditioning, and may incorporate aquatic therapy. There’s no need for patients to fear physical motion after spinal fusion. Our physical therapists provide individuals with the right therapies to address their needs at every stage of their recovery and throughout their lifetime.