The Spine Rehabilitation Program is a comprehensive two-week program that involves a firm commitment from you to change how you deal with chronic pain.
The program helps you develop skills to manage your pain more effectively while improving your quality of life. All activities take place in the UI Spine Rehabilitation Program, an outpatient group setting where you learn and work with others who also experience chronic spine pain.
The goal of the program is to help you develop a clear plan for the future that will allow you to:
Our program has been in existence for over 20 years. Patients treated in an interdisciplinary setting function better, have higher rates of returning to work, and have reduced the duration of pain. The benefits of interdisciplinary treatment can be maintained for a lifetime.
Our success is due, in part, to an excellent staff dedicated to treating complex patients with chronic pain. The medical director of the program, Dr. Chen, is a physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Our interdisciplinary team includes a social worker, a psychologist, physical therapists, and a vocational counselor.
A typical day of group activities includes:
To handle the challenges involved with diagnosing and treating chronic spine pain, the spine rehabilitation team combines its skills into a multidisciplinary team, integrated spine-care approach. Our program incorporates:
Some of the lectures describe pain mechanisms, explain how your spine can be solid, stable, and healed and still hurt and explain the difference between acute pain (short-term, warning) and chronic pain (long-term, non-warning).
Physical and Aerobic Conditioning
Patients learn the benefits of physical exercise and conditioning to increase:
We use the term "coping skills" to refer to a variety of skills and techniques taught for pain management. All of these skills have a psychological component to them. Coping skills are sometimes referred to as "mind-body" techniques because they integrate both the mind and body for pain management.
Coping skills are taught in a group setting, using psycho-educational and group therapy/support techniques. While we validate the experience and stress of chronic pain, we do not dwell on pain. Instead, we focus on moving toward a more functional future.
Relaxation exercises to deal with stress and pain:
We teach various breathing and relaxation exercises to help patients learn to decrease unnecessary muscle tension and release the naturally occurring pain relieving responses by the body. We teach patients about these naturally occurring processes as a way of increasing their perceived control over their pain.
Imagery to focus on things other than pain:
We talk with patients about the relationship between stress and pain, and help them identify better ways of managing their current stressors through problem solving, cognitive restructuring, and identifying myths.
Cognitive behavioral and mind/body techniques for pain management:
We work to build self-esteem and self-efficacy, helping patients rediscover a better quality of life. We look at personal strengths and talk about how people view and operate in the world in different ways. We extend this discussion to different ways people cope with the stressors related to chronic pain.
During the Spine Rehabilitation Program, you will meet with a vocational counselor to:
The non-residential program runs two weeks, Monday through Friday with weekends off.
We start every morning with 35 minutes of stretching and strengthening to music. The program was developed with an aerobics instructor specifically for people with spine pain. There is no impact (jumping or bouncing) just stretching and strengthening with our staff members. It is a fun way to stretch out, loosen up and warm up for the day.
Lectures and discussions about issues regarding the spine include information about pain mechanisms—how something can be solid, stable, and healed and still hurt. The difference between acute and chronic pain will be explained.
Vocational exploration encompasses a variety of topics to:
The purpose of this part of the program is to provide a means for patients to increase their level of physical function, a time when we expect you to stay physically busy.
During the course of the program, patients meet daily with a psychologist to learn mind/body techniques for pain management and stress management. These sessions focus on cognitive behavioral techniques, building on the knowledge and skills learned from the previous session.
Cardiovascular conditioning uses various types of exercise equipment including treadmills, bikes, steppers, ski machines, and the use of a pool. Each day, you will exercise using all or some of these pieces of equipment. During your evaluation, you complete a graded exercise test establishing a baseline for your functional level and determining an appropriate pace for your exercise at home.
There are two blocks of time in the afternoon to cover other areas of functional restoration. This includes instructions in activity modification to give you more options for doing activities across the day. We also address stretching, strength training, and balance work exercises.
Each day ends with relaxation training, applying the mind/body techniques taught in coping skills. This session gives you an opportunity to practice a method of pain management that encourages self-reliance on pain management techniques and is one of the first steps in effective managing of chronic pain.