Seven Leading Physical Therapy Treatments

Type of Physical Therapy Treatments
Ultrasound is a common treatment for "runner's knee."

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.

1. 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.

2. Exercise

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.

3. 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.

3. Ultrasound

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.

4. Traction

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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. Education

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? Request information from SOCHi today.

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