Physical therapy is a complementary medical practice intended to treat movement disorders and musculoskeletal complaints. It also has a significant role to play in rehabilitation from injuries and surgery. If you haven’t gone through physical therapy before, you may have a limited idea of what it involves. Physical therapy encompasses a wide range of treatments that the therapist can choose from to create a treatment plan that will be most effective. Here are some of the most common treatments and modalities.
1. Manual Manipulation
Physical therapists may use their hands to mobilize painful or symptomatic joints or soft tissues. This helps to reduce scar tissue, increase range of motion, and prepare you for other treatments. Another form of manual treatment that physical therapy may involve is massage of the symptomatic area to release tension and improve circulation.
2. Physical Exercise
Physical therapy may involve learning and performing special exercises for strengthening, flexibility, endurance, as well as pain relief. A physical therapist may guide you through these exercises in the clinic so that you do them correctly without hurting yourself. You may also receive instruction on performing the exercises on your own so that you can continue therapy at home.
Kinesiology taping is a relatively new technique that involves strategically applying flexible fabric to the skin for purposes of pain relief, swelling management, and muscular rehabilitation. Because it is a new modality, research is still being conducted about its effectiveness.
Iontophoresis is a method of using low electrical current to deliver anti-inflammatory medication directly through the skin to the symptomatic area. It is helpful for treating pain and swelling related to inflammation of tissue such as tendons or ligaments.
Hydrotherapy involves immersion in a whirlpool bath. The movement of the water can help with pain relief, circulation, and wound cleaning, if applicable. Sometimes you just immerse the symptomatic part in the water, or else your physical therapist may combine the hydrotherapy treatment with gentle exercise. Hydrotherapy can involve either hot or cold water.
6. Electrical Stimulation
Electrical stimulation is similar to iontophoresis. With electrical stimulation, the electrical current is itself the therapeutic rather than the route to administer medication. It can help to relieve pain and improve function and is used for conditions affecting the muscles or nerves.
When you meet with a physical therapist, he or she will work with you to identify goals and work out an effective treatment plan.