Tips 3

In this section, I want to take a moment and talk a little about why therapeutic exercise is therapeutic.  First of all, of course, if an exercise or set of exercises addresses the pathology, then the exercise will be beneficial.  For example, if one’s low back pain is caused by spasm of the quadratus lumborum , than we might expect that treating the QL would assist in stabilizing the lower back and reducing pain.  On the other hand, if the lower back pain is caused by, for example, spinal stenosis (a dessication of one or more vertebral discs), than we wouldn’t expect treatment of the QL to be significant as a primary factor.

So, when the cause of pain is rooted in the soft tissue–that is, the muscles, fascia, tendons, and ligaments–what characteristics do exercises share that are of therapeutic value?  We can actually make a list.

  1. Exercises tend to decompress.  That is, move the joints slightly apart.  When you decompress the spine, you separate the vertabrae.

  2. Exercises tend towards extension rather than flexion.  Extension is what happens when you stretch your back or reach your arm out in front of you.  With extension, you are making the angle of the joints wider. Flexion closes the angle of the joints.  You can see that as you extend a part of your body, you also decompress the joints.

  3. Exercises, to greater or lesser degree depending on severity of the complaint, encourage joint mobility.

  4. Exercises tend to stretch and loosen muscle fiber.  However, it certainly can be the case that a muscles require tonification, or an increase in muscle tone, or tension among the fibers.

  5. To some degree, exercises break up adhesions, though here massage therapy or physical therapy may produce faster results. Adhesions are areas where the muscle fiber has torn and then stuck together in the healing process.

  6. Therapeutic exercises also promote blood and lymph circulation from which the next characteristic follows:

  7. Oxygenated muscle tissue actively discharging waste via lymph.

It is also true that therapeutic exercises tend to promote relaxation, strength, and functional use of the muscle or muscle group.  However, I think the seven above cover the most important commonalities.  I personally see therapeutic exercise as bringing a client up to the point where he or she may begin to work on strength.