San Diego Spine Foundation


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Physical Therapy

At the San Diego Center for Spinal Disorders we are affiliated with a team of physical therapists, exercise physiologists and rehabilitative medicine specialists who provide exceptional care for our spine patients.

Located in the same building as our practice, the team specializes in care for spine patients and offers a full spectrum of treatments.

What is Our Goal?

Our goal for all of our patients is to help improve or maintain their functional abilities (i.e. activities of daily living). These functional abilities can be improved by building strength, flexibility and endurance, and learning proper body mechanics (e.g. posture) for spine stability and injury prevention.

The treatments we provide include passive and active treatments. Passive treatments include hands on treatment, electrical stimulation, myofascial release, ultrasound and heat/ice. Active treatment includes therapeutic exercise such as floor exercise, spinal stability, exercise on special equipment (such as therapy ball, or computerized spinal strengthening) and aquatic therapy.

Passive Therapies

Manual Therapy

Manual therapy includes manipulation and mobilization. This therapy involves restoring mobility (i.e. range of motion) to stiff joints and alleviating pain.

Prior to manual therapy, a passive therapy may be given. Passive therapy might include application of heat, ultrasound and/or electrical stimulation. These therapies relax and warm underlying soft tissue allowing joints to be more easily manipulated.

Electrical Stimulation (TENS)

Electrical stimulation is also known as Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). TENS delivers a painless electrical current through the patient's skin to specific nerves. This treatment is non-invasive with no known side effects. It may be used to control acute pain and chronic pain.

Myofascial Release

Fascia is a sheath of connective tissue that supports muscles, bone, and organs. Stress from injury or poor posture causes the fascia to tighten. As the fascia constricts, muscles and bones may be pulled out of place causing pain. The physical therapist uses his or her fingers, palms, elbows and forearms to firmly and gently stretch the fascia.


Ultrasound is a common non-invasive therapy used to treat back and neck pain, tendon and ligament injury, muscle spasms, joint problems and other spine related conditions.

The physical therapist applies gel to the patient's skin to create a friction free surface and the ultrasound probe is gently swirled over the area. Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to deliver heat deep into tissues (e.g. muscles). This therapy promotes circulation and healing, relaxes muscle spasm, decreases inflammation and helps to alleviate pain.

Ice and Heat Therapies

Cold treatments are never applied directly to the skin, because excessive cold can injure skin tissue. A barrier such as toweling is placed between the skin and the cold source. Ice helps to reduce blood flow thereby decreasing swelling, inflammation and pain.

Heat therapy options include heat packs (plus skin barrier) and ultrasound. Warm moist heat increases circulation to the affected area. Blood carries needed nutrients to the area and helps to flush away toxins. Heat helps to relax stiff, sore muscles.

Active Therapies (Therapeutic Exercise)
Aquatic Therapy and Exercise

Patients with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, spinal stenosis, back and neck pain and other spinal disorders can benefit from aquatic therapy (hydrotherapy). Treatment frequently takes place in a heated pool. Aquatic therapy addresses impaired mobility, weakness, weight bearing tolerance, pain, flexibility and coordination.

Warm water relaxes muscles. The buoyancy of water enables joints to be moved without excessive stress. Often, what a patient is unable to do on land can be done in water.

Therapeutic Exercise

Anyone can benefit from therapeutic exercise. Exercise builds strength, improves balance and coordination, improves sleep, increases flexibility, stimulates the cardiovascular system, tones muscles, and relieves musculoskeletal stiffness, fatigue and pain. The physical therapist will customize a program to meet the patient's individual needs.

Prior to therapeutic exercise, a passive modality is usually administered followed by a period of pre-exercise warm-up activities. Warming up the body can be achieved by walking on a treadmill or stationary cycling.

Learning How to Move Safely: Body Mechanics

During physical therapy, patients are taught how to maintain proper posture. Good posture helps protect the spine against unnecessary stress and strain. Back and neck pain are often caused by poor posture. Learning how to lift, reach, carry, stand, sit and get in and out of a car are all practical skills that can help prevent injury and pain as well as to return to work and leisure activities.


We are committed to the long-term well being and health of our patients. A carefully designed physical therapy and exercise program for many of our patients is a critical part of their journey to return to health.