Common Physiotherapy Treatment Techniques
A physiotherapist’s approach, and the techniques used, will depend on the severity and cause of your discomfort, and what the priorities are for the outcome of the treatment. If you are usually young and fit, and your physical problem results from a specific trauma, injury or surgery, the main priority of physiotherapy may be simply to get you moving again.
However, a longer physiotherapy program may be necessary, involving multiple modalities, if your current pain or discomfort results from long-term body stress caused by years of poor posture, or from a debilitating condition or disease. The choice of physiotherapy techniques would involve providing short-term relief of pain and restoration of mobility, as well as finding ways to best correct, or learn how to cope with, a long-term condition.
The Most Common Modalities in Physiotherapy
Among the most common techniques a physiotherapist will use in planning a treatment program, are the following:
Exercises are specially chosen to address your individual injury or condition in order to improve your mobility, flexibility and balance; as well to build your strength and increase your stamina. In most instances, your physiotherapist will also develop a home program for you to follow between treatments. Tools like exercise balls, elastic stretch bands and treadmills can be brought into play to increase the effect of some exercises.
While exercise involves effort on your part, other treatments require little physical involvement from you. Massage, stretching and manipulation are intended to reboot your body’s ability to move and operate properly, and form a crucial part of the initial process in any treatment or rehabilitation program. These modalities are aimed at aiding and improving the effects of exercise in correcting your situation.
Heat and Ice:
Alternating the application of ice and heat to the injured area can both provide relief, and loosen tissue, in preparation for exercise, massage or other treatments. The ice helps reduce inflammation and soft tissue swelling, and makes joints more mobile. Heat, on the other hand, is good for relieving muscle spasms and tightness, and decreasing pain while increasing the effectiveness of other therapies.
Light, sound and electricity:
Utrasound, delivered with a wand-like instrument, directs soundwaves through the skin, to create heat far down inside the body and intensify the positive effects brought about by the use of heat packs, in loosening up tissue before manual therapy or exercise. A low-level laser uses light waves to relieve pain, and reduce inflammation, when muscles and connecting tissue have been injured or damaged. Electrical stimulation intended to return normal muscle function and movement, is done with carefully targeted pulses of low-level electricity.
Traction uses mechanical stretching of the spine to correct compression that can affect the nerves which connect the brain with the rest of the body, as well as the disc cartilage of the spinal column. Other forms of stretching are involved during hands-on manual therapy and in exercises designed to loosen joints and muscles.
Getting strapped up:
The physiotherapist may apply tape or bandage to support the work he or she has done by manual moving, stretching or stimulating of joints, tendons or muscles.
Teaching new tricks:
Physiotherapists will train and educate patients to avoid future damage to their bodies caused by factors like poor posture, lack of balance, or a distorted gait. These are often caused by a sedentary lifestyle, and incorrect office and home furniture. Where necessary, training on the correct use of orthosis, crutches or walking frames is also undertaken.
Physiotherapy is an extremely wide field, with a big range of therapies woven together into programs designed to meet individual needs. This gives it a very important role in rehabilitation and recovery from discomfort and pain.