Alex Simotas, MD

Hospital for Special Surgery
Board Certified Physiatrist
Specializing In Spine & Sports Medicine

Home > Wellness & Exercise > Exercise Based Treatment

Exercise Based Treatment

Exercise based treatments use a variety of approaches and have proven effectiveness in the treatment of many orthopedic conditions.  In particular, exercise is effective in spinal pain disorders.  Years of research has shown that exercise is both safe and effective in the treatment and management of most back and neck pain problems.  This appears to be particularly important in problems causing more chronic and reoccurring pain.


Most importantly it appears that, contrary to what you may think,  taking it easy and avoiding activities is often the worst thing to do.


How and why?


There are a host of reasons why exercise may be effective in treating many orthopedic conditions, especially problems of the spine.  Here are just a few of the reasons why exercise therapy works:


  • Increases the strength and endurance of the muscles that support your spine
  • Improves the range of motion(flexibility)
  • Improves the quality of muscle function and ease of movements of your spine.  Making tasks that use the back more natural and less stressful
  • Exercise improves blood flow and oxygen delivery to your spi
  • A daily diet of consistent exercise makes your spine less sensitive to more stressful activities
  • Exercise can help raise endorphin levels (pleasure producing hormones) and reduce the surges of stress hormones (cortisol).


·          downward cycle of pain, activity avoidance or reduction, disuse and atrophy, and increasing sensitivity to activity.


·         Establish more confidence with activity, and your physical capacities.  Reduce fear of painful events




Slowly introduce exercise into reverse the trend of disuse, pain, weakness, stiffness, and fatigue that has set in.  Gradually strengthen muscles and improve the stamina, and fortitude of your spine. 


Exercise will help improve the actual performance of the specific activities you want to perform.


But when I can’t exercise because of my pain what do I do? 


This is a common problem for people with back pain problems at many different levels.  Refer to the article “Building exercise activity” to understand how you can adopt a successful strategy.  Managing the pain and activity relationship is a constant dilemma in any painful condition. But it is important to adopt winning strategies. 


Make sure exercise and condition is a key part of your treatment


Exercise and physical conditioning are not effective treatments for many problems, but they also appear to help prevent problems.   So ultimately some form of physical activity should be a part of or a goal to any treatment plan.  If its not, make sure you understand why.