Physical therapy is a broad field that encompasses all sorts of treatments for functional movement disorders. Physical therapy attempts to identify areas of restricted movement, alleviate pain, and restore full mobility. Although there are many different techniques, all can be loosely categorized into several main types.
Exercise is the core of any physical therapy program. It is always carefully targeted to your specific needs, and the exact exercises that are used tend to evolve throughout the duration of your treatment. For example, if you have lower back problems, you might begin by learning to stand without leaning from the edge of a high table, and gradually progress to performing squats.
Exercise can be further subdivided into two categories: stretching and strengthening. Stretching exercises are designed to loosen muscle knots and open up stiff joints. Strengthening exercises are designed to build muscle tone and help your body more easily move through space. Together, stretching and strengthening exercises can help reduce the risk of further issues.
Note that your physical therapist will also assign exercises for you to perform at home. Physical therapy requires your active participation, and the more you put into it, the more you will get out of your program.
Not all physical therapists perform manual therapy, but it can be a powerful treatment tool. This type of treatment includes all techniques that are directly hands-on. The goals are to reduce pain and increase flexibility.
Manual therapy can be further divided into various types:
Massage: Therapeutic massage is designed to ease pain, relax muscles, and increase circulation. Any traditional massage techniques may be included in a therapeutic massage.
Mobilization: Mobilization helps to improve alignment and flexibility in the tissues around a joint. Slow, careful movements with the hands or a device are used to gently push, pull, or twist the bones and joints.
Manipulation: Similar to chiropractic manipulation, these techniques use controlled force to change the alignment of a joint.
External treatments include anything that is applied to the skin to help ease pain, swelling, or inflammation, or to increase blood circulation. These include:
- Ice or Cooling Spray
- Electrical Stimulation
An important part of physical therapy is teaching you to manage your condition on your own. In addition to teaching you exercises and external treatments, your physical therapist may provide education and training in such areas as:
- Avoiding Reinjury
- Safer Ways to Perform Daily Activities
- Proper Use of Assistive Devices
- Improving the Safety of Your Home
Physical therapy is highly individualized, and the exact techniques used will depend on your personal needs. In general, though, a physical therapy program is typically broad based, employing aspects of all four main types of therapy.
Founded by physical therapy innovator Dr. Joseph Simon, the Manhattan Physical Therapy and Pain Center is a leader in pain relief and injury recovery conveniently located in Midtown New York City. We offer several dedicated programs for different conditions, along with the latest innovations in physical therapy for all. If you are ready for the latest treatments for your pain or injury, we invite you to call us today at (212) 213-3480 to learn how we can help.