April is Occupational Therapy Month, so it makes sense to kick off the month with a quick review of the many benefits of physical therapy when it comes to managing back pain and regaining strength and mobility, especially during the post-surgical period. The idea of occupational physical therapy is to make sure the body is optimize to withstand the rigors of a particular duty or series of duties so injury due to overuse or other stress and strain can, hopefully, be avoided or at least minimized. That’s especially important following back surgery so patients can return to their routines as quickly as possible without experiencing pain from jobs that require prolonged periods of standing or sitting at a desk.
When it comes to back pain, occupational therapy typically includes both active and passive exercises to help strengthen the muscles in the back and in the abdomen – the so-called core muscles that help preserve strength, flexibility, mobility and even balance. When these muscles are toned and strengthened, it relieves strain on the back muscles that can cause vertebrae to slip out of alignment, and it also facilitates faster post-surgical healing by promoting better circulation.
But building strength and mobility is just one function of occupational therapy, albeit a critical one. Another often-overlooked aspect of occupational therapy (at least from most patients’ points of view) is education. A skilled physical therapist is able to provide plenty of advice and guidance to help you understand the way your back works and what you can do to prevent strain and pain while you’re on the job. Educational activities might include changes in work habits, the use of more ergonomic equipment, how to work in exercises during the workday, or even nutritional advice or exercise guidance that helps you stay pain-free at work. Plus, physical therapy can also help relieve feelings of stress, anxiety or depression that often accompany chronic pain, simply by releasing the body’s “feel good” chemicals to improve the mind-body connection.
Although occupational therapy can’t relieve all types of back pain, it’s absolutely an essential element for patients recovering from spinal surgery, and when your therapist’s guidance is scrupulously heeded, it can also help you prevent the need for future surgeries.
If you’ve been suffering from back or neck pain, it’s time to call Microsurgical Spine at 253-841-8939 to schedule your consultation.