Physical therapy or physiotherapy (often abbreviated to PT) is a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialty that remediates impairments and promotes mobility, function, and quality of life through examination, diagnosis, prognosis, and physical intervention (therapy using mechanical force and movements). It is carried out by physical therapists (known as physiotherapists in most countries).
In addition to clinical practice, other activities encompassed in the physical therapy profession include research, education, consultation, and administration. In many settings, physical therapy services may be provided alongside, or in conjunction with, other medical services.
Physical therapy (or Physiotherapy) involves the illnesses, or injuries that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities as well as they would like in their daily lives. PTs use an individual's history and physical examination to arrive at a diagnosis and establish a management plan and, when necessary, incorporate the results of laboratory and imaging studies like X-rays, CT-scan, or MRI findings. Electrodiagnostic testing (e.g., electromyograms and nerve conduction velocity testing) may also be of assistance. PT management commonly includes prescription of or assistance with specific exercises, manual therapy and manipulation, mechanical devices such as traction, education, physical agents which includes heat, cold, electricity, sound waves, radiation, rays, prescription of assistive devices, prostheses, orthoses and other interventions. In addition, PTs work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles, providing services to individuals and populations to develop, maintain and restore maximum movement and functional ability throughout the lifespan. This includes providing therapeutic treatment in circumstances where movement and function are threatened by aging, injury, disease or environmental factors. Functional movement is central to what it means to be healthy.
Physical therapy is a professional career which has many specialties including sports, neurology, wound care, EMG, cardiopulmonary, geriatrics, orthopedics and pediatrics. Neurological rehabilitation is in particular a rapidly emerging field. PTs practice in many settings, such as private-owned physical therapy clinics, outpatient clinics or offices, health and wellness clinics, rehabilitation hospitals facilities, skilled nursing facilities, extended care facilities, private homes, education and research centers, schools, hospices, industrial and this workplaces or other occupational environments, fitness centers and sports training facilities.
Physical therapists also practise in the non-patient care roles such as health policy, health insurance, health care administration and as health care executives.Physical therapists are involved in the medical-legal field serving as experts, performing peer review and independent medical examinations.
Education qualifications vary greatly by country. The span of education ranges from some countries having little formal education to others having doctoral degrees and post doctoral residencies and fellowships.
Cold Therapy or Cryotherapy
Cold therapy is effective in minimizing pain and swelling, especially in acute (immediate) injuries. It may also be used just after deep kneading massage (DKM). Examples of cold therapy are ice pack application and ice massage.
Applying heat can help improve your blood flow especially at the site of injury, thus, speeding up healing. In addition, it can help soften tight tissues and relieves pain. There are several heating modalities and devices available including:
Electrical stimulation is used to prevent muscle atrophy (wasting) in people with paralysis and assist in gaining some degree of muscle strength, such as after a knee surgery. In electrical stimulation, electrodes are placed on the surface of the skin, which can cause muscles to shorten.
TENS, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, is a type of electrical stimulation. It is a small battery-powered device that sends low current through the electrodes place on the skin surface. A TENS device does not cause the muscles to contract, but rather helps temporarily relieve pain.
Range of Motion (ROM) Exercises
Range of motion exercises are often prescribed to increase or maintain flexibility of your joints and to reduce stiffness. There several types of range of motion exercises often prescribed including the following:
Certain conditions can make your muscles to become weak. Strengthening exercises is an important part of physiotherapy rehabilitation to prepare you for your return to your original performance level or highest possible function.
Soft Tissue Mobilization
Soft tissue mobilization or therapeutic massage may be a part of your physiotherapy treatment to relax your tight muscles, relieve pain and reduce swelling.
The following are other physiotherapy treatments. More information will be provided in future topics.
Another important aspect of physiotherapy rehabilitation is patient / family education. You will learn so much from your physiotherapist about your particular condition, what you can do at home to manage your symptoms, precautions to observe, and repeat injury prevention.