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If you’ve recently had some kind of physical injury, first of all I’m sorry. You’ve probably been recommended physical therapy. PT is often a great way to get back to your usual self, but you may want to find out more about it. Though you may not be aware, there are several types of physical therapy, each better suited to different injuries. Here, I’ll explain a few common physical therapy methods.

First of all, there’s the category known as “manual therapy”. The techniques in this group are what distinguishes physical therapists from other health professionals. When practitioners talk about “manual therapy”, it could be in reference to a number of different things. The most common therapist’s techniques include certain stretches, massages, and other physical strengthening exercises. This aims to re-educate your body in all the normal movements you’ve been abstaining from. Let’s say you have a significant injury, and spend a long period of time without moving certain parts of your body. Generally, the longer you remain inactive, the worse the damage will become. Manual therapy is the base of almost any physical therapy work. Other specialised techniques can be applied. However, manual therapy is the primary way for removing movement restriction and speeding up recovery.

Recent decades have shown the rise of Functional Electrical Stimulation. Don’t worry, it’s always overseen by professionals! Electrical stimulation (or ESTIM) will typically be used for restoring normal muscle function. Due to the nature of this technique, it’s generally used for especially severe muscle trauma. This kind of treatment involves applying a steady, minor electrical pulse to certain areas of the body. Through this, your therapist can induce contractions in muscles which are usually dormant. Certain exercises are an essential part of any therapy. However, ESTIM is much more efficient at restoring a person’s normal, functional movement. Unfortunately, electrical stimulation can’t restore movement in the case of very severe injuries. However, after procedures like knee replacement and ACL, ESTIM is fantastic at speeding up the recovery process.

Image from Wikimedia

It’s a good thing ultrasound is being used by medical professionals. Before that, connective tissue injuries were total agony to recover from. These days, it’s used regularly to help along people’s injured muscles. If you’re set to undergo this kind of therapy, a therapist will use an ultrasound wand to apply sound waves directly to your skin. This can loosen up stiff tissues, making manual therapy and exercise much easier. Ultrasound could have many other therapy applications. One 2006 study found that ultrasound can speed up the ligament-healing process in rats. Although this has drawn a lot of attention, more research is needed before it can be used regularly on humans.

There’s a little look into three common physical therapy methods. The options available for physical therapy patients are much wider. From laser treatment to traction to heat and cold, there are any number of things your therapist may use. I’m not going to lie to you and say that it’s all especially pleasant. However, PT is an essential part to recovering from physical injury. I hope you get well soon!