October is National Physical Therapy month and the continuing theme is #ChoosePT in order to raise awareness and empowerment for patients with chronic pain to seek treatment for pain management(APTA National Physical Therapy Month). Physical therapy has multiple therapeutic benefits that make it a superior choice for not only chronic pain patients, but anyone who suffers from a diagnosis or injury that inhibits their participation in daily life and activities.
Photo credit: WebPT.com Happy National Physical Therapy Month
How Physical Therapy Returns Patients to Function
Physical therapy works with several modalities and techniques in order to meet several goals that all lead towards a return to function. The main goals of most physical therapy regimens include:
- Pain Reduction and Management
- Diminishing Swelling & Edema
- Increasing Range of Motion & Strength
- Improving Posture & Movement
- Return to Daily Function
We’ll discuss the tools and techniques used by physical therapist in order to meet these goals.
- Pain: In order to effectively reduce and manage pain, a physical therapist may use several modalities, either alone or together, such as: therapeutic ultrasound, electrical stimulation, low-level laser therapy, and whirlpool therapy. For example, studies have found that low-level laser therapy used with electrical stimulation is effective in reducing pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. (Read More Here)
- Swelling: Swelling and edema can occur in acute injuries and chronic problems. It can lead to more pain and a reduction in movement and range of motion. There are several modalities that can be used to treat swelling and edema including: cold-compression therapy, ultrasound therapy, and low-level laser therapy. For example, cold-compression therapy is a device that joins the analgesic effects of cold therapy with the edema reducing effects of compression, making it a powerhouse modality to treat swelling and edema experienced as a result of acute injury or chronic issues.
- The Ability to Move: Adequate range of motion and strength are needed to successfully navigate most daily activities. In order to improve both goals, physical therapists use therapeutic exercise and stretching, underwater treadmills, Continuous Passive Motion machines. For example, continuous passive motion machines have been found to positively improve range of motion and strength in patients after knee replacement surgery. (Read more here)
- Posture: Posture is an important factor in reducing pain now and complications we may experience as we age. Physical therapists help patients have improved posture and build the strength and flexibility necessary to maintain neutral posture both in daily activities and in work situations. Physical therapists work with patients on their posture both with manual and therapeutic exercise techniques.
- Active Recovery: Evaluating patients both at the beginning of their rehabilitation process and during treatment is invaluable in keeping track of a patient’s progress back to function. Handheld digital dynamometers are an evaluative tool physical therapists use to establish baseline strength and ability, but most importantly gains as a patient moves through their rehabilitative journey.
Physical therapy is a powerful alternative for pain medication, but more than that it is an empowering tool to helping patients regain function in parts of their lives lost to injury or a difficult diagnosis. It’s important to keep educating prospective patients of their options so they can make the best choices for their rehabilitative care.