What is Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is a special treatment modality that mainly targets on pain relief and restoration of physical fitness level. It is highly effective for patients who find it difficult to move around and do their day to day activities due to various physical disabilities and wearing and tearing ailments. This is also used to treat patients who undergo surgery and require several days-weeks immobilisation and those who suffer from chronic disease conditions such as arthritis and asthma.
A physical therapist is a person who is responsible for carrying out physical therapy in referred patients with the help of numerous treatment types which mainly focus on strengthening, relaxing and healing muscles, along with an improvement in flexibility, strength and coordination of the overall body. He will mainly target the diagnosis which has already been made by the physician or relevant sub-specialty doctor and discuss the associated symptoms with the patient to get an idea about the severity of the condition. He will also gain some knowledge about the daily routine of the patient which is highly important in deciding on the physical therapy prescribed.
Commonest types of conditions which require Physical therapy:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Cardiac rehabilitation following surgery
- Wound care (Especially after surgery and in Diabetes patients)
- Cancer-related problems and palliative care
- Treating children and elderly
Pain relief and the reduction of inflammation are the two initial objectives of physical therapy; they are mandatory in order to continue with the rest of the treatment.
The patient will be made aware of the condition and how the entire process is going to be carried out. Then the therapist will proceed with manual therapy and procedures like heat-warmth, cold, water, ultrasound, radiation and electrical stimulation.
Other major entities of this therapy include stretching, core exercises, weight lifting, running and walking; most of these can be carried out at home, following a detailed awareness and orderly instructions given to the patient in an equipped, clinical setting.
What are Modalities in Physical Therapy
Here we will discuss some of the major modalities in physical therapy.
This is a common and easy method, which is used by many physical therapists, to relieve inflammation and pain in patients with muscle strains, arthritis and spasms.
Wrapping 2-3 hot packs in a few layers of moist towels and massaging the affected area will give a sound relaxation to muscle tension, spasms and constrict the blood vessels of the area which will ultimately result in a reduction of inflammation and it signs.
This is a type of physical therapy which uses cold and moisture to reduce pain and inflammatory signs. A special frozen gel material packed in a bag and wrapped in a wet towel will be directly applied over the affected area. This will result in a vasoconstriction of the blood vessels, causing a decreased inflammation and its associated signs like pain, redness, warmth and disability.
The main principal of using ultrasound waves in physical therapy is to utilise high and low-frequency sound waves, which can easily be transmitted into surrounding tissues, structures and vasculature, giving rise to a relaxation of tensed muscles. The additive benefit of warming in ultrasound waves will have a positive impact on dilating the blood vessels, thus increasing the blood supply to the area to cause quick healing.
However, it is important to adjust the frequency of these waves to an optimal range, and if not, they can cause an undue heating, which will end up in destructing the penetrated tissues.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
This method, introduced to the field recently, is carried out by a machine which is operated by a small battery in order to transmit electrical stimulus, thus causing pain relief. Electrical current will be supplied to the body using few electrodes. The whole procedure will be non-invasive, and the patient will only feel a tingling sensation on the skin and underneath. This electrical signal will compete with the inherent nerve stimulus supplied to the relevant muscle or tissue, overrule it and cause an effective pain relief.
“US Navy 081610-A-6522B-002 Physical therapist Lt. Cmdr. Mitchel Ideue, Officer in Charge of Inpatient Services at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, in Landstuhl, Germany, gives Army Sgt. Charlie McCall a physical therapy trea” By U.S. Navy photo – ( Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia