People routinely seek treatment from a physical therapist when they have muscle or joint pain. Whether it’s knee, hip, shoulder, or lower back pain, people come to physical therapy for solutions to their problems. Being uniquely trained in anatomy and kinesiology, physical therapists are able to diagnose those movement patterns which perpetuate painful conditions. 

Before developing a treatment plan, the physical therapist performs a comprehensive evaluation to assess a patient’s joint mobility, flexibility, and muscle strength/endurance. Once deficits have been identified, a physical therapist has the information her or she needs to develop a plan to reduce pain and restore function. A typical physical therapy plan of care includes patient education, prescription of corrective exercise, manual therapies, and supportive modalities.

Let’s investigate each of these a little more in-depth.  

Patient Education

Without a doubt, one of the most important aspects of physical therapy treatment is education. The body can be mysterious, and this mystery leads to fear and anxiety which only serves to heighten the sensitivity of the nervous system and perpetuates pain. Because movement of the human body is highly complex, most people don’t understand what they’re doing to create pain. Physical therapists educate their patients about the root causes of their problems. With this understanding patients are empowered to proactively create environments that allow optimal tissue recovery.

Corrective Exercise

Corrective exercise is the heart and soul of physical therapy. Once a physical therapist analyzes how their patient moves and investigates the strength and flexibility behind those movements, they can begin to prescribe corrective exercises. The word prescribe here is important. It’s not enough to give someone a handout of stretching and strengthening exercises and hope they get better. Physical therapists ensure that each exercise is performed correctly. The devil is in the detail. Small changes in technique have profound impacts on how muscles are recruited and activated, greatly influencing the effectiveness of an exercise. Another important component of exercise prescription is dosage. Performing an exercise at a low load can render it ineffective. Alternatively, excessively loading of muscle or tissue can halt healing or, even worse, create injury.  Learning to move correctly and then apply the correct load to an injured tissue are the keys to healing and recovery.

Manual Therapy

Physical Therapy includes the use of several manual therapy techniques to help people recover from injury and are an important adjunct to corrective exercise. Manual therapies include, but are not limited to, soft tissue mobilization, myofascial release, cranio-sacral therapy, joint mobilization, spinal mobilization, and muscle energy technique. Manual Therapy can be an effective tool in the world of physical therapy to help reduce pain, improve movement, and facilitate/inhibit certain movements to expedite recovery from injury.  

Supportive Modalities

Modalities used in the practice of physical therapy are wide-ranging and can include interferential current, ultrasound, infrared, cupping, kinesiotape, mechanical traction, and iontophoresis. While modalities have a place in physical therapy, most are used sparingly as an adjunct to corrective exercise and manual therapy to help people manage pain and recover from injury.

For more information about physical therapy see this helpful article in MediaNewsToday