1- Types of Physical Therapy Treatments


1- Types of Physical Therapy Treatments

Physical therapists treat a broad spectrum of ailments and movement disorders. From bursitis and back pain to osteoarthritis and overuse injuries, the list goes on and on. It’s hardly surprising that in order to best support their clients’ diverse treatment needs, physical therapists call on an extensive list of techniques

Let’s count down a few of the most common methods used by physical therapists to promote proper mechanics and movement of the human body while helping their clients stay healthy and strong

Manual Therapy
Perhaps the most convenient tool at a physical therapist’s disposal? His/her own hands. This technique comprises a number of different methods, including massage, mobilization, manipulation and strengthening exercises

Manual therapy is so effective, in fact, that it’s considered by many to be a foundational part of any physical therapy treatment plan

Types of Physical Therapy
Types of Physical Therapy

One oft-overlooked form of physical therapy which tops the rest in terms of injury prevention? Exercise. Whether introduced as an alternative to today’s sedentary, desk-based lifestyles or as a strengthening tool in response to a specific injury, exercise is used to target weak muscles, address muscular imbalances, and keep aches and pains at bay

One popular form of exercise used by physical therapists to treat disease and promote health? Water exercise, AKA hydrotherapy

Hot and Cold Therapy
While the layperson may struggle to understand how best to use hot and cold therapies, physical therapists have the training and knowledge to use both. Typically, ice is used to reduce inflammation and swelling in acute soft tissue injuries because of its ability to constrict blood vessels

Heat, on the other hand, is more appropriate for treating tightness and muscular spasms for pain reduction and increased mobility. Additionally, heat also enhances tissue pliability making it a useful tool for stretching tendons, ligaments, and muscles

This common PT method uses a wand to apply high-pitched sound waves which promote circulation while generating heat deep within connective tissues. In addition to enhancing the effects of other treatments like exercise and manual therapy, ultrasound is also thought to speed up the ligament healing process

Phonophoresis, meanwhile, is a technique which uses ultrasound to enhance the delivery of topical medications, such as xylocaine and cortisone

While the word “traction” may bring to mind thoughts of bed-bound soap opera characters swathed in bandages with their legs raised over their heads, this physical therapy method is very different than popular conception

In simplest terms, traction is a form of decompression therapy designed to alleviate pressure on the spine. It is used to treat a number of different back conditions, including sciatica, pinched nerves, herniated discs and, degenerative disc disease. In alleviating the pressure from compressed disks, this spine-strengthening technique helps straighten the spine and accelerate healing without surgical intervention

Laser Therapy
Physical therapists use low-level lasers to generate wavelengths of light which stimulate healing. In addition to helping treat inflammation, pain and muscle fatigue, laser therapy can also be used to reduce discomfort during manual joint manipulation

Electrical Stimulation
Also known as ESTIM, this technique involves the application of electrical stimulation to cause otherwise-dormant muscles to contract. Following traumatic injuries and certain types of surgery, ESTIM can help restore function and movement. Electrical currents can also be used at low levels for pain reduction

Physical therapy also includes an educational component. From instructing clients on daily exercises to perform at home to training them on the use of assistive devices such as wheelchairs and crutches, physical therapists teach clients how to play a direct role in recovery and injury prevention

Along with other modalities, physical therapists regularly rely on these techniques — alone and in combination — to enable recovery in the patients they treat. Looking to learn more about these the field of physical therapy, along with how physical therapy assistant programs offer entry into this rapidly growing field

How can physical therapy help

In physical therapy, also known as PT, trained professionals evaluate and treat abnormal physical function related to an injury, disability, or other health condition

According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), physical therapists are trained and licensed movement experts. They can diagnose and treat a range of injuries, disabilities, and health conditions

Physical therapists aim to improve a person’s range of movement and quality of life and prevent further injury or disability

Licensed physical therapists work in a range of healthcare settings, including outpatient offices, private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, home health, sports and fitness settings, schools, hospices, occupational settings, government agencies, and research centers

What to expect

A physical therapist helps take care of patients in all phases of healing, from initial diagnosis to restorative and preventive stages of recovery. Physical therapy may be a standalone option, or it may support other treatments

Some patients are referred to a physical therapist by a doctor, while others seek therapy themselves

According to the World Confederation for Physical Therapy, a physical therapist receives training that enables them to

conduct a physical exam and evaluation of a person’s movement, flexibility, muscle and joint motion, and performance, including finding out about their health history

give a clinical diagnosis, prognosis, and plan of care with short- and long-term goals

perform physical therapy treatment and intervention

give self-management recommendations, including exercises a person can do at home

Apart from physical manipulation, physical therapy treatment may involve

Iontophoresis: This uses an electrical current to deliver certain medications, such as topical steroids. This can decrease the presence of inflammation

Electrical stimulation (e-stim): There are two types of e-stim. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation reduces pain. By contrast, neuromuscular electrical stimulation works to stimulate muscular motor units to improve muscular engagement

Heat, moist heat, and cold therapy: These may provide benefits to a range of conditions

Light therapy: This involves using special lights and lasers to treat certain medical conditions

Common conditions physical therapy may help with
Physical therapists can provide supplementary treatment to a wide variety of medical conditions, depending on their specialty

Although physical therapists may not directly and independently treat the medical condition other than pure musculoskeletal conditions, they work to optimize recovery or educate a person on how to optimize their movement patterns

Some conditions that could benefit from physical therapy are

cardiopulmonary conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, and post-myocardial infarction heart failure
conditions that affect the hand, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger finger
musculoskeletal dysfunction, including back pain, rotator cuff tears, and temporomandibular joint disorders

neurological conditions, such as stroke, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, vestibular dysfunction, and traumatic brain injuries
pediatric conditions, including cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy
sports-related injuries, such as concussion and tennis elbow
female health and pelvic floor dysfunction, including urinary incontinence and lymphedema
skin conditions or injuries, such as burns, wound care, and diabetic ulcers
Benefits of physical therapy
Depending on the reason for treatment, the benefits of physical therapy may include

pain management with reduced need for opioids
avoiding surgery
improved mobility and movement
recovery from injury or trauma
recovery from stroke or paralysis
fall prevention
improved balance
management of age-related medical problems
A sports therapist can help an athlete maximize their performance by strengthening specific parts of the body and using muscles in new ways

Types of Physical Therapy

A physical therapist or other healthcare professional can advise individuals about the benefits specific to their personal medical history and their need for treatment

There are many types of physical therapy, and therapists often choose to specialize. These types include

Orthopedic physical therapy: This treats musculoskeletal injuries, involving the muscles, bones, ligaments, fascia, and tendons. It is suitable for conditions such as fractures, sprains, tendinitis, bursitis, chronic health problems, and rehabilitation or recovery from orthopedic surgery. Patients may undergo treatment with joint mobilizations, manual therapy, strength training, mobility training, and other modalities

Geriatric physical therapy: This can help older adults who develop conditions that affect their mobility and physical function, including arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, hip and joint replacement, balance disorders, and incontinence. This type of intervention aims to restore mobility, reduce pain, and increase physical fitness levels

Neurological physical therapy: This can help people with neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, brain injury, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, and stroke. Treatment may aim to increase limb responsiveness, improve movement patterns, manage toneTrusted Source, improve strength, and promote balance
Cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation: This can benefit people affected by some cardiopulmonary conditions and surgical procedures. Treatment can increase muscular and cardiovascular endurance and stamina

Wound care therapy: This can help ensure that a healing wound is receiving adequate oxygen and blood by way of improved circulation. Physical therapy may include the use of manual therapies, e-stim, compression therapy, and wound care
Vestibular therapy: This aims to treat balance problems that can result from inner ear conditions. Vestibular physical therapy involves a number of exercises and manual techniques that can help patients regain their balance and coordination

Decongestive therapy: This can help drain accumulated fluid in patients with lymphedema and other conditions that involve fluid accumulation
Pelvic floor rehabilitation: This can help treat conditions that affect the pelvic floor, such as urinary or fecal incontinence, or urinary urgency and pelvic pain as a result of injuries or surgery or because of certain conditions

What is pediatric physical therapy
Pediatric physical therapy aims to diagnose, treat, and manage conditions that affect infants, children, and adolescents. Such conditions may include

developmental delays
cerebral palsy
spina bifida
other conditions that impact the musculoskeletal system
Pediatric physical therapists work to improve mobility, alleviate pain, develop or restore function, and prevent or decrease permanent physical disabilities

They work closely with children and their families and caregivers to improve a child’s ability to function independently and actively at home and at school

Finding a physical therapist
Finding a suitable physical therapist can involve a number of factors, including insurance acceptance, specialty and reason for treatment, and geographical location

Insurance companies often have lists of physical therapy locations that participate in specific health plans. Other healthcare professionals may have a list of therapists in the area whom they recommend

Another way to find a physical therapist is to look online or access the APTA Find a PT web-based tool

Training to be a physical therapist
For a person to practice as a physical therapist in the United States, they need to earn a doctor of physical therapy degree and pass a state licensure exam

Physical therapists study areas that include

cellular histology
exercise physiology
behavioral sciences
cardiovascular studies

pulmonary, endocrine, metabolic, and musculoskeletal studies
Physical therapists can specialize in fields such as

cardiovascular and pulmonary health
clinical electrophysiology
health for older adults
neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics, and sports physical therapy

Physical therapy can be very beneficial for people with certain injuries, disabilities, or other health conditions