Physical therapy is a treatment method for improving limited body movement and functionality that are a result of disease, injury or aging. Treatment involves restorative exercises that focus on developing muscle strength, flexibility, balance, posture and coordination, and that provide overall pain relief. Physical therapy is designed to promote a patient's overall health and fitness, prevent reinjury and maximize quality of life. It may be prescribed as an initial form of treatment for certain conditions or injuries, or to restore strength and function after surgery.
Types of Physical Therapy
Physical therapy has many specialty areas dealing with different types of injuries and diseases. The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties recognizes only these areas:
- Clinical electrophysiology
- Women's health
- Cardiovascular and pulmonary
To rehabilitate patients, physical therapists use a combination of exercises and stretches, which are often combined with relaxation and recuperation techniques, such as electrostimulation and hot/cold treatments.
Physical Therapy Sessions
The core of a physical therapy session usually involves physical exercises to strengthen the body; the exercises are designed around the patient's injury or disease. Exercises usually progress in difficulty and intensity over the course of the sessions. A physical therapy session usually ends with an icing session or therapeutic massage; electrostimulation may be used during this cool-down period. The physical therapist records and states the patient's progress for the day, as well as possible goals for the next session.
At-Home Physical Therapy
In many cases, physical therapy can be performed at home, without the therapist's being present; this usually speeds up the recovery process. The patient should be given exercises or stretches that can safely be done on her or his own. Adhering to the physical therapy program and the entire rehabilitation process are essential for achieving effective results.