Physical therapists (PTs) provide a method of investigating and solving problems for each patient’s condition that impairs his or her mobility, functional ability or quality of life. Physical Therapy professionals start their diagnosis with a thorough evaluation. This evaluation may include range of motion of your joints and the strength of your muscles, palpation of soft tissues (manual inspection of skin, joints and other tissue), a neurological, a pain assessment, and an evaluation of your daily activities and how they are affected by your injury.
After the evaluation is completed, the therapist will look at all the data he or she has collected, and provide you and your doctor with a recommended plan of care. You, as the patient, are consulted in setting goals of treatment, as most of the responsibility for recovery lies with the patient. Once the plan has been agreed upon, treatment begins.
Treatment in physical therapy consists of three main types:
Modalities: These consist of treatments that are passively provided to the patient to work on pain, tightness, swelling and other symptoms. Examples are hot packs, electrical stimulation, and ultrasound. These treatments alone are only marginally effective in treating an injury, and are most successfully used in conjunction with more active procedures.
Procedures: Procedures are active treatments that require the patient’s participation or a therapist’s manual skills to promote healing and improved mobility. Examples of procedures are exercise programs, joint mobilization and gait training.
Education: Education and training of the patient and his or her family are among the most significant interventions that a physical therapist can offer. Often the patient’s body mechanics or posture is contributing to an injury or pain, and working with the physical therapist to correct and change that positioning or habit can eliminate many problems.