Evaluations are conducted by examining posture and assessing body movement. Dysfunctional patterns are then detected and corrected by assigning an individualized plan of stretches and exercises.
The word functional is meant to describe a more holistic approach to rehab. Many traditional types of physical therapy only prescribe generic groups of exercises based on a condition. Traditional protocols are still a great place to start and can be effective. However, functional rehabilitation can often uncover the deeper levels of impairment.
There are three stages of progression. Stage 1 is making sure that the brain is communicating with appropriate muscles. Essentially, it is checking for coordination and the ability of a muscle to activate how it’s supposed to. If not, therapies such as myofascial release, spinal manipulation or acupuncture can often be used to reflexively ‘wake up a muscle’. Additionally, there are easy isolation exercises that can be taught to learn to engage muscles correctly.
Stage 2 is checking for core stability. The ‘core’ is the area of the pelvis and for our purposes, the muscles that attach to the pelvis. It is the center of gravity and the location where all movements originate. The most recognized and important for rehab are the abdominal muscles and glute muscles. If muscles in this area aren’t strong, basic everyday movements will be faulty.
In stage 3, movement patterns are observed looking for subtle flaws. During childhood, most of us unconsciously start to develop how we move. This way of moving then carries over into adulthood. For some people, their adopted movements can be a cause of their low back pain or neck pain. This can especially be the case with recurring back injuries related to movements such as bending or lifting.
Breaking the process up into stages helps to start the rehab process at each patient’s current level of ability. This is great for anyone that has been discouraged with physical therapy in the past. There are sometimes complaints of therapy being too easy or too difficult. It can be too easy if a patient is being encouraged to do basic isolation exercises if they’re an athlete who really has a movement issue. Physical therapy can be too difficult if someone has a particular muscles that is a weakest link, and they’re being taught advanced movement based exercises.
If dealing with an injury it is important to get evaluated by a spine specialist before attempting rehabilitation. For best results, imbalances should be discovered in order to come up with an effective plan. If there are areas of tightness or restrictions, stretching, myofascial release and chiropractic adjustments should be used along with exercises.