Physical therapy is an exercise program that helps you to improve movement, relieve pain, encourage blood flow for faster healing, and restore your physical function and fitness level. The main aim of physical therapy is to make your daily activities, such as walking, getting in and out of bed, or climbing stairs, easier. It can be prescribed as an individual treatment program or combined with other treatments. Physical therapy is usually ordered to help you recover after certain surgeries, injuries and long-term health problems such as arthritis.
A physical therapist will examine your symptoms and daily activities, and make a treatment plan, which primarily focuses on reducing your pain and swelling. The different procedures used by your therapist depend on your specific physical ailment. Physical therapy involves a combination of education, manual therapy, exercises and techniques. Some of the procedures commonly used are:
- Stretching exercises: Surgery, age and conditions, such as arthritis and osteoporosis, can cause inflammation and stiffness in your joints and muscles, and restrict your movement. Physical therapists guide you step by step to stretch certain areas of your body to restore flexibility, and enhance the movement of joints and muscles.
- Core strengthening and stability exercises: Specific exercises are designed to make the core (pelvis and lower back) strong enough to support the whole body.
- Ice and heat: Applying heat or cold treatment on muscles can stimulate the blood flow and reduce swelling. Heat treatment helps to reduce joint pain and spasm in the lower back and neck, and loosen muscles. Cooling works best for ankle sprains.
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound sends high frequency sound waves over your body and stimulates deep body tissues. Vibrations produced by sound waves help to stimulate blood flow and facilitate the healing process. This procedure can also be used to improve metabolism and enhance the adhesiveness of bones after a fracture.
- Electrostimulation: In this procedure, an electric current is passed through the area which requires treatment. This helps in relieving pain, stimulating muscles and nerves, and expanding blood vessels.
These treatments may cause mild soreness or swelling. You can talk to your therapist in case it is prolonged.