Physical Therapists are trained professionals who have been approved by the State Board of Physical Therapy. They are licensed through examinations and must pass a certain amount of education in their specific field. Physical therapists are also called sports medicine specialists. They are not medical doctors but they provide medical care and treatment for athletes, patients with musculoskeletal conditions, or those with disorders of the nervous system and the elderly. The most common disorders treated are those relating to the musculoskeletal system, such as fractures, muscular and ligament injuries, sprains, stress fractures, herniated discs, osteoarthritis, frozen shoulder and adhesive capsulitis. Other disorders treated include diabetes, neurological disorders, skin diseases and immunological conditions.
A physical therapist may diagnose an injury by performing a diagnostic physical exam. They look closely at the patient’s posture, muscles, bones, joints, organs and tissues and evaluate them for damage. Based on their findings they develop a treatment plan. Physical therapy includes: Careful analysis of the physical structure or injury causing the problem. Custom treatments or techniques performed by the physical therapist on the specific injured area to correct movement or pain. Exercises designed to promote balance, strength, flexibility, range of motion, range of movement, muscle balance and motor control.
Physical Therapy is sometimes combined with other medical treatments to help alleviate pain. Patients will be given medications, referrals to therapists and other treatment options that are appropriate to their pain management. Sometimes, Physical Therapists will recommend alternative therapy methods such as massage, exercise, heat therapy, acupuncture, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), magnetic therapy, electrotherapy, orthopedic surgery and hot packs and ice packs. The goal of therapy is to improve function and healing by reducing pain, promoting joint mobility and promoting the range of motion. Physical therapy exercises may include ultrasound, laser, radio frequency, infrared, mechanical traction, electrical muscle stimulation (EMS), active release therapy (ART), and specific exercise programs.
Some physical therapy treatments for injured muscles and joints focus on improving static strength. Static strength is the ability to lift weights without changing the body’s position. This ability allows the injured person to move the joint or muscle without experiencing pain or restriction. Weight bearing exercises are the most common types of static strength training used in physical therapy. The goal of weight bearing exercise is to increase the strength of the muscles supporting the body and to reduce the effort required to move the body. Examples of weight-bearing exercises include sit-ups, handstand push-ups, treadmill walking, bicycle exercise and Swiss ball exercise.
When a physical therapist treats shoulder pain they may recommend stretches or specific exercise programs for pain relief. They may recommend stretching activities such as yoga. Stretching can be beneficial as it allows the body to repair itself and increase flexibility.
Other physical therapy techniques may also be recommended by a physical therapist for patients that are suffering from rotator cuff injuries. The rotator cuff is a group of four shoulder muscles and they are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. When there is tightness in any one of these muscles or surrounding joints the result is a weakness in movement, strength, and durability. A physical therapist can prescribe specific stretching exercises that can improve strength and range of motion in order to improve daily activities and relieve pain resulting from a rotator cuff injury.
Physical therapists may recommend applying electronic stimulation to the shoulder. This can be done using ultrasound, electric current, laser, or heat energy. Application of electrical stimulation helps to increase the blood flow to the muscles and increase the effectiveness of therapeutic exercise programs.
Physical therapy is very useful for alleviating back pain and improving range of motion and muscle strength. In order to have the most successful therapy program, it is important to make an appointment with your therapist at the first sign of trouble. Physical therapy may include one or more of these techniques to help alleviate pain and injury caused by mechanical forces and/or stress. It is important to have a positive outlook on life so that you are motivated to continue with your rehabilitation and exercises even after an injury has healed.