Neck & Back Physical Therapy

Back and neck pain are very common.

Neck & Back Physical Therapy

Back and neck pain are very common. In fact, injuries to the spine are the most common conditions that we treat. Do not let back problems limit your lifestyle. Most of these problems respond well to the right kind of treatment.

Common Causes of Neck & Back Pain

Disc Herniation

Herniated, bulging, compressed, ruptured, slipped. These are the many names for this condition caused by worn-down, degenerated vertebral cushioning. This naturally occurs when the cushioning between vertebral discs leaks out and irritates nerves.

Common Causes of Disc Herniation:

  • Age-related wear and tear
  • Repetitive, spine-stressing activity (especially lifting, bending, twisting)
  • Smoking, excess weight and sedentary lifestyle
  • Sudden injury

Common Signs and Symptoms of Disc Herniation:

  • Numbness and tingling (often radiating into the upper or lower extremities)
  • Pain (local and often radiating into the upper or lower extremities)
  • Weakness
  • Stiffness
Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is when the cushiony discs between the vertebrae of the spine deteriorate. Without cushioning, the spine experiences additional pressure, causing mild, moderate or severe pain.

Common Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease:

  • Aging
  • Genetics/heredity
  • Injury
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Trauma

Common Signs and Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease:

  • Weakness in either the upper or lower extremities
  • Numbness / tingling
  • Pain
    • Especially low back, buttocks, thighs, neck, and upper extremities
  • Worsens with sitting, bending, lifting, twisting
  • Improves with walking, changing positions, lying down

Sudden, sometimes debilitating pain that starts in the low back and radiates down the leg is a telltale sign of sciatica. Sciatica is a condition in which the nerve that runs from the lower back, through the buttocks and down the leg becomes inflamed or irritated.

Common Causes of Sciatica:

  • Arthritis
  • Herniated disc
  • Fracture
  • Injury
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis

Common Signs and Symptoms of Sciatica:

  • Numbness and tingling (often radiating into the upper or lower extremities)
  • Pain (local and often radiating into the upper or lower extremities)
  • Weakness
  • Stiffness
Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Dysfunction

Regional aching and pain in the area between the spine and the buttock can be due to sacroiliac joint inflammation. Often localized to one side of the spine, this form of back pain is often the result of misalignment and instability.

Common Causes of SI Joint Dysfunction:

  • Pregnancy
  • Trauma
  • Leg length discrepancy
  • Gait abnormality

Common Signs and Symptoms of SI Joint Dysfunction:

  • One sided pain in the region between the low back and buttock
  • Tenderness to the region of pelvis below the lower back
  • Aching
  • Stiffness
Spinal Stenosis

This condition causes a narrowing of the spine one of three places: the center space, the nerve branch canals or the space between the bones of the spine. This narrowing puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, causing a great deal of pain.

Common Causes of Spinal Stenosis:

  • Aging
  • Arthritis
  • Genetics
  • Injuries
  • Scoliosis
  • Tumors

Common Signs and Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis:

  • Cramping
  • Numbness
  • Pain (especially neck, back and radiating down leg)
  • Weakness

When teen or adolescent athletes complain of low back pain, the culprit could be a tiny crack or stress fracture in one of the vertebrae. This condition, called spondylolysis and generally improves with rest and rehabilitation.

Common Causes of Spondylolysis:

  • Genetics/heredity
  • Repetitive bending and straightening
  • Sports injuries (especially football, diving, gymnastics)

Common Signs and Symptoms of Spondylolysis:

  • At times, no obvious symptoms.
  • Feeling of strained muscle
  • Low back pain ranging from sharp to dull ache
  • Pain aggravated by bending and straightening

This degenerative disorder may range from mild to severe, causing little (or much) disruption to daily activity. It affects the neck (cervical), mid-back (thoracic) and low-back (lumbar) spinal regions, and possibly discs and facet joints.

Common Causes of Spondylosis:

  • Age
  • Bone spurs
  • Disc dehydration
  • Herniated discs

Common Signs and Symptoms of Spondylosis:

  • Numbness
  • Pain
  • Weakness

Having an “S” or “C” curve in the back is one apparent symptom of a medical condition called scoliosis. This abnormal curvature of the spine can affect anyone at any age, although it is more prevalent in girls than boys.

Common Causes of Scoliosis:

  • Unknown, possibly hereditary
  • Often more pronounced with age especially in women
  • May be secondary to other neuromuscular conditions:
    • Cerebral palsy
    • Muscular dystrophy
    • Spina bifida

Common Signs and Symptoms of Scoliosis:

  • Asymmetrical, elevated hip
  • Distinct sideways lean
  • Noticeable hump
  • Protruding, asymmetrical shoulder blades
  • Uneven shoulder or waist line

Although people may joke about this condition in response to a mild injury, whiplash is a real condition. It occurs when soft tissues of the neck are strained or sprained, usually as a result of sudden forward or backward motion.

Common Causes of Whiplash:

  • Motor vehicle accidents (especially rear-end collision)
  • Acute injury (falls or sudden force to the head or neck)

Common Signs and Symptoms of Whiplash:

  • Pain

Spine Treatment Plans

Injuries involving the spine can be difficult to accurately diagnose and properly treat. Several different disorders can result in similar complaints and but have dramatically different treatment protocols. What’s more is that many people who happen to suffer from the identical disorder often have different exercises depending on their own individual areas of tightness, weakness, as well as a variety of other impairments. Your therapist will develop an individualized treatment plan based on an hour long history and physical examination. There are several treatment approaches to choose from. Your therapist will identify the approach that is best suited to treat your specific disorder and guide you as you progress through the program. You can read about a few of these approaches below.

The McKenzie Method

This is consistently one of the most proven methods of evaluating and treating acute pain, stiffness, numbness / tingling, and weakness originating in the spine. It is an approach that evaluates how repeatedly performed spinal movements and sustained postures effect symptoms. The information allows the therapist to arrive at an accurate diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan. Here patients perform exercises that are often complimented by manual (hands-on) treatments to resolve their disorder and prevent reoccurrence.

Core Stabilization

Many also know this as core strengthening. The “core” muscles of your trunk and hips provide a bracing effect to the spine. When functioning properly, these muscles help to keep your spine stable while you move. This reduces the stress placed upon the spine thereby lessening pain, stiffness, and symptoms of nerve compression. When the core muscle are weak and not functioning properly sudden movements or lifting heavy objects can cause serious injury. Once pain is under control, core stabilization is what helps you to get back to activity and prevents future injury.

The Maitland Method

The Maitland method is based on a continuous evaluation and assessment of applied hands-on techniques and movements. In the case of spinal pain, specific techniques are applied to the spine to identify problem areas and direct treatment. Patient education is an important part of this treatment approach.

The Mulligan Concept

This is a treatment approach utilized when muscle spasms, imbalances in strength / flexibility, or joint damage result in joint misalignment. Here pressure is applied to the spine to achieve better alignment while the patient actively stretches and performs resisted movements while in pain free positions. This is commonly coupled with core strength training to ensure that normal alignment is maintained.

Spinal Manipulation

With this treatment a therapist applies a small, but quick, movement to a spinal segment to improve alignment and restore mobility. Patients often associate a “pop” with this treatment.  This is a fundamental tool of the chiropractic profession.

Spinal Traction

Also known as Spinal Decompression. This is a treatment where a clinician or device applies a decompression between 2 vertebra. This reduction in pressure can help to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation from the discs and joints of the spine as well as to relieve compression upon the nerves exiting the spine.

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