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How physiotherapy works

Physiotherapy is a medical profession that helps to restore function and movement in patients affected by disability, illness, or injury. The aim of physiotherapy is to help patients regain their normal functional abilities by using natural techniques such as motivation, exercise, therapeutic equipment, and education.

Physiotherapists are health care professionals who study medical subjects like anatomy, physiology, neuroscience and other allied sciences in order to diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate patients with physical disabilities and disorders. While treating a patient, they take a holistic approach and treat the body as a whole, rather than only paying attention to the specific causes of injury and illness

Physiotherapy Techniques

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To achieve its goal, physiotherapy utilizes certain approaches and techniques. Let us understand in detail what these techniques are and how they work.

Manual Therapy

Also known as Mobilization, this refers to using hands to mobilize the affected soft tissues and joints. Physiotherapists exert manual pressure by using their hands to mobilize joints and soft tissues in order to reduce pain that results due to joint stiffness or muscle spasm. Manual therapy is known to be beneficial in treating musculoskeletal conditions like chronic back pain. This manual approach is used for the following reasons:

  • To improve circulation of blood through the body
  • To enhance movements of affected body parts
  • To enable drainage of fluid from different parts of the body
  • To reduce pain and discomfort

Exercises

Therapeutic exercises have a huge part in physiotherapy. Physiotherapists may incorporate exercise in their treatment plan in two ways. Firstly, it can be used during the recovery phase of certain conditions like surgeries and sports injuries that affect the overall mobility of the patient. In such cases, gentle exercises like walking and swimming are recommended. Secondly, specific exercises may be taught in order to strengthen the affected part of the body. For instance, in case of paresis (slight or incomplete paralysis) caused by stroke, a physiotherapist may put together exercises to strengthen the affected limbs.

These therapeutic exercises must be repeated on a regular basis for a specific period of time as advised by your physiotherapist.

Electrotherapy

Electrotherapy is a treatment approach used in physiotherapy that promotes muscle contraction, thereby reducing pain and encouraging healing. It is known as electrotherapy because it uses electric current or impulses to excite the nervous system, which in turn causes muscle contractions.

Electrotherapy can be administered with a number of equipments. Let us look at their uses.

  • Ultrasound: Here high frequency sound waves are emitted which stimulate cell activity and blood circulation. It treats deep tissue injuries. It helps reduce pain, muscle spasm and speeds up the healing process.
  • TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation): A TENS machine sends electric current to the affected part of the body so that the nerves stop sending pain signals to your brain. It also stimulates the release of pain-killing natural hormones called endorphins from your brain. It is used in chronic pain conditions.
  • Short-wave Diathermy (SWD): Here an electromagnetic field is formed which produces heat within body tissues. It helps reduce pain, swelling and inflammation and strengthens tissues.
  • Laser Therapy: A concentrated and narrow beam of laser is used on the affected body part. It is most effective in treating soft tissue injuries and skin conditions. It is also used for tendonitis and other inflammatory conditions. It stimulates healing of tissue, reduces pain, swelling, and inflammation. It also helps breakdown post-operative thickened scar tissue and accelerates regeneration of injured cells.

These electrotherapy techniques do not hurt. You may feel a slight tingling sensation in case of TENS.

Hydrotherapy

This approach of physiotherapy uses water to aid in recovery. Hydrotherapy is carried out in a shallow pool with warm water or in a special hydrotherapy pool. Generally it is used for adults and children with physical as well as learning difficulties. Hydrotherapy has been known to relieve pain in certain cases but there is not much evidence to call it an effective pain relieving technique. However, it helps to improve blood circulation and relax contracted muscles.

Whatever technique the physiotherapist uses, it won't have the desired effect if certain lifestyle changes are not adopted. For instance, if a person suffers from spondylitis, in addition to physiotherapy sessions, importance needs to be given to maintaining the correct posture while standing, sleeping, and sitting. The patient's involvement is as important as the physiotherapist's.

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