A physical therapist helps patients recover from injury and manage disabilities.
Accordingly, they have to obtain a master’s or doctorate in physical therapy before they’re allowed to practice in the U.S.
When it’s all said and done, they know how to help you heal faster and live your best life.
In this article, we explore exactly how physical therapists help their patients recover.
What Is Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy is a broad category of rehab treatments that strengthen the body.
Generally, it includes exercises and non-invasive procedures to relieve pain and prevent further injury.
Thus, If you’re looking for a physical therapist near you, we’re happy to help.
Physical Therapy Treatments
Physical therapists evaluate the patient and put together a treatment plan.
In brief, here is an overview of the most common physical therapy treatments:
Therapeutic Exercise: Therapeutic exercise is the backbone of physical therapy. You’ll spend the majority of your physical therapy session performing strength and mobility exercises.
Neuromuscular Re-education: Neuromuscular re-education is a set of balance and coordination exercises that strengthen the mind-body connection.
Manual Therapy: Manual therapy includes joint mobilizations, myofascial release, assisted stretching and more.
Ultrasound: Ultrasound uses sound waves to improve circulation and help damaged soft tissues heal faster.
Hot & cold therapy: Hot and cold therapy increases circulation and reduces pain.
Soft Tissue Massage: Massage loosens stiff muscles and breaks apart scar tissue.
Traction: Traction is a type of joint manipulation that stretches the spine vertically to improve posture and range of motion.
Joint Mobilizations: Joint mobilization is a manual technique that stretches the joint and relieves nerve pressure.
Spinal stabilization: Spinal stabilization uses exercises to train and strengthen the small muscles around the spine.
Cold Laser Therapy: Cold laser therapy uses lasers to penetrate deep into damaged areas and help them heal faster.
Electrical Stimulation: There are several different types of electrical wave therapies, including TENS, Hi-Volt and pre-modulated. They’re typically used to decrease pain and swelling.
Biofeedback: Biofeedback therapy is a machine that gives the patient direct feedback about how well their muscles are firing.
Kinesio-taping: Kinesio-taping uses special medical tape to relax and engage injured muscles.
Water Therapy: Hydrotherapy allows you to workout without the impact of gravity.
Dry Needling: Dry needling is similar to acupuncture. In a nutshell, fine needles are inserted into trigger points in the ligaments, tendons and muscles.
Furthermore, if you’re able to safely workout on your own, you’ll be asked to do exercises at home as well.
The Different Types of Physical Therapists
Like doctors, physical therapists specialize in certain areas.
In short, here is an overview of what each type of physical therapist does:
Orthopedic physical therapist: Orthopedic physical therapists help people recover from traumatic injuries, surgery and physical disorders. For example, they treat post-operative joints, sports injuries, amputations, sprains, fractures, tendonitis, bursitis and arthritis.
Neurological physical therapist: Neurological physical therapists work with patients who have neurological disorders, such as cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, stroke and traumatic brain injury.
Pediatric physical therapist: Pediatric physical therapists work with kids who have musculoskeletal disorders like cerebral palsy, spina bifida, torticollis and developmental delays. They also help children with impaired vision.
Geriatric physical therapist: Geriatric physical therapists help the elderly keep their independence. Common conditions they deal with include balance disorders, arthritis, cancer, hip and joint replacement and osteoporosis.
Cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapist: Cardio-pulmonary physical therapists help patients recover from heart surgery.
Incidentally, you can learn more about the different types of physical therapists by contacting us at Complete Care Health Centers.
Physical Therapy Health Benefits
Here are just a few of the general health benefits of physical therapy:
Loosens tight muscles and improves muscle contraction
Speeds up recovery physical injury
Recover faster from strokes and other neurological conditions
Decreases wear and tear on the joints
Reduces joint inflammation
Improves athletic performance
Decreases joint pain from arthritis (1)
Manage physical issues related to diabetic neuropathy and other vascular conditions
Avoid unnecessary surgery
Manage heart and lung-related issues
Now let’s take a closer look at how physical therapy can treat specific injuries and conditions:
1. Chronic Pain
Chronic pain can affect your life in all sorts of ways.
Fortunately, physical therapy can help.
In fact, it’s one of the best options for the treatment of long-term pain.
After all, nobody wants to bog their body down with painkillers if they don’t have to.
Usually, your physical therapist will look for areas of weakness that might be affecting your pain, then use exercises to correct them.
Consequently, here are a few of the exercises they might have you try:
If you have chronic joint inflammation, physical therapy can increase joint lubrication.
As it turns out, joints love to move!
When you move, synovial fluid enters the joint cavity and reduces friction.
At the same time, physical therapy can correct imbalances in your body mechanics.
Plus, physical therapy can relieve nerve pain by taking pressure off pinched nerves.
After exercising, your physical therapist might recommend hot and cold packs to reduce inflammation and loosen the joints.
2. Ankylosing Spondylitis
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of inflammatory arthritis that limits mobility and causes severe pain.
Astonishingly, roughly 2.7 million Americans have it. (2)
Hence, you may not feel like moving if you have AS, but it’s actually one of the best things for you.
For example, a recent medical review found that supervised exercise greatly improved the spinal movement of AS patients compared to no exercise at all. (3)
Not moving, on the other hand, increases joint calcification and limits mobility.
Ultimately, this leads to more pain and a worse quality of life.
Here are some of the best activities for people with AS:
Light hand weights
As a rule, PT sessions typically last an hour and you’ll learn special exercises to do at home.
For example, try standing with your back against a wall, then slowly slide the backs of your arms and hands up and down the wall.
Keep you back flat!
It’s harder than it sounds, but your physical therapist will be able to show you the ropes.
3. ACL Tear Recovery
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are a common sports injury.
Furthermore, your ACL is a ligament in the knee that stabilizes side-to-side motion.
Physical therapy, as it turns out, is essential to recovering from ACL surgery. (4)
Not doing physical therapy, on the other hand, greatly increases the risk of re-injuring yourself.
Specifically, ACL tears happen as a result of suddenly stopping and changing direction.
However, it can also happen with much less force if the conditions are just right.
After surgery, your doctor will refer you to a physical therapist.
Unfortunately, the first PT session will most likely be painful.
Likewise, that’s why it helps to have an experienced professional to assure you that the pain is safe and normal.
Ordinarily, physical therapy strengthens the hips and greatly reduces the chance of re-injury.
When it comes down to it, the goal is to get you back to everyday activities ASAP.
4. Down Syndrome
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that causes intellectual and physical challenges.
For the most part, going to school, holding jobs, and taking part in community activities can be difficult.
However, physical therapy can improve their ability to lead a normal life.
At the same time, down syndrome comes with higher rates of obesity and heart disease.
Luckily, risk factors like these can be reduced by regular exercise and physical therapy. (5)
In particular, physical therapists help children with down syndrome master basic motor skills like crawling, standing, and walking.
Plus, physical therapists have techniques to improve posture and balance.
For example, they might use a round pillow or exercise ball to improve the child’s ability to hold their head upright.
Strokes happen when a blood vessel in the brain is either ruptured or blocked.
For the most part, this can cause permanent brain damage, physical disability, or be life-threatening.
For example, many stroke patients lose control over one side of their body.
Ultimately, physical therapists play a major role in stroke rehab.
The main goal is to strengthen the mind-body connection. (6)
First, the physical therapist will evaluate your baseline, including how easy it is to perform basic tasks like moving from the chair to the bed.
Don’t worry, there are plenty of tools to help along the way, like:
As you get stronger, you’ll move on to strength exercises and get one step closer to independence.
These are just a few of the hundreds of conditions that physical therapists can help treat.
If you need help finding a physical therapist near you, feel free to contact us at Complete Care Health Centers.
We’re happy to help.