Physical Therapy

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy is a treatment program that can help you improve your ability to move and helps you stretch, relax, and strengthen your muscles and joints. It may also help you have less pain.

When is it used?

You may need physical therapy if you have had:

  • An injury or surgery
  • A stroke or other condition that makes it hard to move some parts of your body
  • Weakness from being bedridden, or from a long-term disease such as multiple sclerosis
  • Problems with falling

Physical therapy can also help you learn how to move properly to prevent injury.

How does it work?

On your first visit the physical therapist will examine you and ask about your health history and any problems you are having. Make sure that you let your therapist know what activities you want to be able to do. The therapist will do tests and check your range of motion and strength.

There are many different types of treatments. The treatments that are right for you depend on your condition.

  • Manual therapy includes any “hands-on” movement of a joint, muscles, or other tissue by your therapist. It can increase your range of motion and strength and can lessen pain and swelling.
  • Therapeutic exercise can help improve strength, joint and muscle movement, balance, coordination, and posture. You may do exercises at the clinic, at home, or both.
  • Heat and ice treatments help make your muscle and joints more flexible and lessen pain and swelling. They may include:
    • Ultrasound, which uses sound waves for deep heating of tissues.
    • Cold packs and ice massage
    • Whirlpools and water therapy
    • Hot packs and paraffin baths
  • Electrical therapy treatments can lessen pain, swelling, and muscle spasms. They may help retrain and strengthen weak muscles and help wounds and soft tissues heal. Examples include:
    • Biofeedback therapy, which trains you to be aware of your body and how it works. You are connected to a machine that senses your body’s response and gives you feedback in the form of lights or sounds. Your therapist can help you use the feedback to learn new ways to control your muscles.
    • Transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS), which uses electrodes placed on your skin to stimulate nerves and help block pain
  • Traction uses a machine to slightly separate the joints of the spine and reduce pressure on the lower back or neck.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-27
Last reviewed: 2014-10-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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