At any one time, it is estimated that nearly 31 million Americans experience lower back pain. Physical therapy is a common prescription, but what exactly is it? There are nearly as many types of physical therapy as there are types of physical pain. Injuries to the joints and soft tissues are the more well-known problems associated with physical therapy, but it has many other uses beyond that. Manual therapy, education, and specialized treatment are the most common forms of therapy that help patients live better lives by empowering them to take control of their healing process.
The Types of Physical Therapy: The Long-Term Healing Process.
The types of physical therapy involve more than simply applying methods directly to the injury itself. Other than manual therapy, there is also education, which focuses on teaching the patient how to avoid a similar injury in the future, as well as specialized treatment. These options work best in conjunction with each other to treat the injured area directly with specific and general care, as well as helping the patient understand how the injury occurred in the first place.
Manual Therapy: Laying Hands On Sore Places.
When people think of physical therapy, they typically envision manual techniques. The goal is to provide relaxation, decreased pain, and increased flexibility. Relaxation comes from massaging the muscles surrounding the injury to help with tense trigger points. Gentle stretching helps decrease pain yet slowly increase strength in the wounded spot. Finally, the result is better flexibility by reducing the chance of stiff scar tissue growing around the injury.
Education: Bringing Understanding to Confused Patients.
After someone is injured and requires physical therapy, it is necessary to help educate them on the injury itself. When the patient understands exactly what happened to cause the injury, how it will heal, and what they can do to prevent it from happening again, then the patient becomes confident in their treatment plan. The healing education begins when the patient is taught new, safer movement patterns, and how to use assistive mobility devices as needed.
Specialized Treatment: When General Practices Are Not Enough.
Specialized treatment encompasses the following: vestibular rehabilitation, wound care, pelvic health, oncology, and some others such as lymph node drainage. This methods are used when the patient is experiencing pain in an area other than their soft muscle tissues or musculoskeletal frame. For example, vestibular rehabilitation involves helping the patient reorient themselves by healing their inner ear troubles, which without therapy can easily result in vertigo. Pelvic health is an area of medicine that does not get the attention it deserves, as modern medicine too often focuses on the health of the reproductive organs only and not the area as a whole. Regular specialized physical therapy may help correct a whole host of problems associated with a weakened pelvis in both men and women.
About five million sports related injuries happen each year in the U.S., according to the National Center for Health Statistics. But it is certainly not just athletes who experience injuries severe enough to warrant physical therapy. If you are experiencing chronic dull pain for two weeks or longer, or if you suspect an injury, talk to your doctor about physical therapy to see what your options are.