The body is a complex machine—and like a machine, occasionally parts break down. When injury or straining occurs, it’s important to seek treatment from a physician. Sometimes, these injuries require surgery, but many conditions can be treated with physical therapy. The methods described below are six types of physical therapy that can help you rehabilitate after a break, strain, or sprain and regain strength and mobility.
Manual therapy is often the first thing that comes to mind when we hear the phrase physical therapy. It is a blanket term that can refer to many things, but usually involves stretching, massage, and led strengthening exercises that help an injured body part relearn proper mechanics. It is generally regarded as the backbone of a treatment plan and a go-to treatment for chronic sprains and strains. The experts at Graham Rehab suggest that manual therapy is especially helpful since it is a one-on-one technique where the patient is being observed closely to ensure that the movements are being done safely and correctly.
Many injuries—or re-injuries—occur from a sedentary lifestyle or repetitive habits. Picture an office worker hunched over a desk eight hours each day, and one can likely see how these two things work in tandem to allow injuries to crop up. A physical therapist can design an exercise program for a patient that will target specific problem areas and keep them from turning into serious injuries. Regular exercise can help even very sedentary folks avoid the general aches and pains of inactivity. Regular exercise is closely related to manual therapy and both can work hand in hand to heal and prevent injuries or chronic pain. Once a therapist has helped a patient to perform prescribed exercises correctly, the patient can then work them into their at-home fitness routine.
Ice can play a major role in the treatment of sprains and strains, especially immediately following an injury. Because it constricts the blood vessels in the area where it’s applied, ice can greatly reduce and even prevent inflammation. Ice therapy can also help mobilize a stiff joint, which can allow the patient to have a more effective manual therapy session.
Like ice, heat can be strategically used to help a patient regain some mobility. While ice is best used on inflamed tissue, heat can do wonders for muscle spasms and/or tightness in muscles, ligaments, and tendons. When heat is applied, the affected area is more pliable. When the affected area is more pliable, it’s easier to stretch and move.
Ultrasound therapy uses sound waves that are undetectable to the human ear to create heat deep inside the body. The heat created by the sound waves loosens injury-affected tissues, which prepares them for exercise or manual therapy. This method is safe, pain-free, and is done using an ultrasound wand that the technician moves over the skin of the affected area of the body.
Functional Electrical Stimulation
Electrical stimulation – sometimes referred to as ESTIM – is an effective method for helping to regain strength in the muscles. Best as a series of treatments over several weeks, ESTIM uses electricity to stimulate affected areas. Electrical stimulation causes the injured muscle to contract when it otherwise would be unable to do so. According to the National Institutes of Health, working the muscle in this way has been shown to restore function and movement to the injured area more quickly than exercise alone. While ESTIM cannot restore function in every case, used as part of physical therapy regimen that includes other modalities, it is effective in treating post-surgery stiffness and mobility issues.