Physical therapy (PT), more commonly known as physiotherapy, is a branch of physical medicine that is concerned with helping physically traumatized patients recover. Physiotherapy aims to strengthen the compromised parts of the patient’s body and help them regain the ability to function normally.
Experts in physiotherapy are known as physiotherapists. They can be found working with patients inside the latter’s home or be employed at a full-fledged physiotherapy center.
The physiotherapist uses a variety of tools and methods to help his/her patients attain maximum physical ability, primarily targeting everyday movements like walking, eating, and bathing.
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Physical therapy can help people who have suffered from a trauma resulting in injury; as a result of this trauma, their body movement becomes compromised. To get their regular movements back, they will need help from a professional physiotherapist.
Physiotherapy can provide care for people who have lost the ability to move owing to the following examples, and more:
It is also a solution for chronic pain relief and can help improve posture.
Tools Employed by Physiotherapist
The physiotherapist uses a wide range of tools to help their patients, including:
The physiotherapist uses a wide range of tools to help their patients, including:
- Exercise balls: This tool helps patients find their neutral spine position, improve posture, increase lumbar mobility, and work on balance and stability.
- Swimming pools: Also known as hydrotherapy, some physiotherapists will use swimming pools to help their patients regain muscle mass and improve their movement. It is practiced in warm water, which helps improve blood circulation and relax tensed muscles. Hydrotherapy is excellent for those who need help with arthritis, have spinal cord injuries, or need to regain their complete movement ability after a stroke.
- Hot and cold packs: These can either help with vasodilation or vasoconstriction of blood vessels) and hence control blood circulation. Hot packs can also help sore muscles relax.
- Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS): EMS is concerned with stimulating muscles with the help of electrical impulses, which encourage muscle contraction. It can help with joint pain, muscle development, improve blood flow, and increase the range of motion for tensed up muscles and tendons.
Other tools are also used in physiotherapy treatment, particularly orthopedic equipment like braces, casts, and splints. These help with bone structure development and overall posture. These tools help improve the patient’s quality of life and give them a better shot at complete recovery. Once recovery is complete, the patients will be discharged from the hospital and enjoy a high-quality lifestyle despite having once faced problems with movement.
Hydrotherapy, or aquatic therapy, is a branch of physiotherapy that uses water as its primary tool. Swimming pools are the main form of equipment, and warm water is used more often than cold.
Hydrotherapy helps with the following:
Unlike general aquatic sport, hydrotherapy is a medical tool and is hence covered by most insurance providers. Only a trained expert can administer hydrotherapy.
Here are the general benefits of hydrotherapy:
- The warm water used in hydrotherapy opens up and loosens the muscles, hence reducing muscle soreness. This improves flexibility and movement. It also promotes vasodilation, which is key to healthy blood circulation; in turn, the blood circulation boosts the rate of recovery by supplying the body with nutrients, oxygen, and more.
- The buoyancy and hydrostatic pressure offered by water let aching joints and muscles rest while still allowing the body to move and exercise, but without harming the already-damaged joints and muscles.
- Respiration is also improved; the lungs and circulatory system are expected to work harder to support movement in the water. As a result, blood flow is improved, and oxygen-rich blood is supplied to the body. Oxygen debt and lactic acid residue are successfully overcome, and, in turn, the patient’s muscle cramps go away.
- Water has viscosity, which makes movement easier in some ways, but harder in other ways. This viscosity is the reason why some experts recommend hydrotherapy to patients who need to strengthen their muscles without pressuring their joints.
As you can see, there are numerous benefits associated with this method. Hydrotherapy can offer things that on-land exercises cannot, which is why it is a major part of physiotherapy and is recommended to almost all patients.
Sports injuries are quite common in today’s world; they can happen to anyone, be it a professional athlete or an amateur player. Sports medicine, including physiotherapy, is important for those suffering from chronic pain, a significant injury caused through sports and athletics, or an illness concerning their musculoskeletal system.
Common sports injuries include:
- Ankle sprains
- Groin pull
- Hamstring damage
- Knee injury
- Tennis elbow (epicondylitis)
- Shin splints
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Back pain caused by disc problems
- Stress fracture
Each of these has a unique mode of treatment, but all of them do require the help of a trained physiotherapist. There are special physical therapists for such purposes called sports rehabilitators. They are trained to cater to primarily those experiencing sports injuries rather than others, like patients with cerebral palsy.
Sports rehabilitators are trained to deal with two types of sports injuries:
These are generally characterized by a tissue injury and caused by a strong force caused by a sudden impact, like a collision caused by a push or fall. They are most commonly noted in sports like football, otherwise known as contact sports.
Micro-traumatic (Overuse) injuries:
Such injuries are a result of repeated and excessive use of the same joint, muscle, or tendon. They are commonly seen in sports like rowing, cycling, and swimming.
Physiotherapy should begin as soon as possible after the injury is detected. A professional can help ensure that the body heals the right way and that the patient doesn’t leave the hospital with a compromised body.
Physically active individuals should remain conscious of their body and try not to exert themselves; this is easier said than done but should be kept in mind at all times. The body is not a machine, and pushing it too far can cause damage. While most traumas can be healed using physiotherapy, it is still far better to be safe than sorry.
Some people will need physiotherapy after a surgical procedure. This is called postoperative care and is recommended to a surgical patient who has gone through an operation that could cause potential complications involving their bones, muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments.
A hip replacement patient, for example, will need physiotherapy because they have experienced surgery concerning bone and related fibers.
Postoperative physiotherapy has three stages and can successfully help a patient regain full control of their body.
Early recovery phase:
This phase starts right after the patient is discharged from the surgical ward. It helps with tissue healing, reducing swelling, regaining the ability to walk, and general pain relief.
Strength and range of motion phase:
This is the second phase and begins once the pain and swelling post-op have gone down. It focuses on improving your range of motion and body strength by introducing difficult strength exercises, balance-therapy, soft tissue treatment, and aggressive manual therapy.
Functional restoration phase:
This is the third and last stage; it takes place once the surgery has mostly healed, and the patient’s strength is back. This stage is also tailored to meet the needs of the patients. For example, a sportsman will need to regain more abilities than an elderly person who doesn’t need to move around much either way due to their old age. This phase will also use manual therapy to restore the patient’s full joint range of motion.
Patients who have suffered a stroke will be in desperate need of physiotherapy. Stroke patients will generally begin seeing a physiotherapist within 24 hours of first having their stroke.
Experts recommend that a stroke patient take part in physiotherapy-related activities for at least 45 minutes per day, five days a week. This should go on till they are fully recovered.
Stroke patients can lose the ability to move; this may be a partial loss or a more severe condition. They will experience muscle weakness, which will impair their movement. After a stroke, the brain finds it harder to receive neural signals, or “inputs”; as a result, muscle movement is compromised, too.
Muscles that are not regularly exercised may shorten permanently as the body’s way of reacting to and coping with the stroke. As a result, muscle fiber length decreases, and limbs or other body parts may appear stunted.
Stroke patients also have reduced stamina, atrophied muscles, and other physical limitations. They can have trouble walking the way they used to or even performing mundane tasks like eating or bathing.
However, with the right therapy, all can go back to normal.
There are many benefits associated with stroke rehabilitation. Physiotherapy in stroke patients can help them regain full use of their bodies and prevent future strokes, too. The Physiotherapist employs a range of motion exercises to help stroke patients improve their physical condition.
They may also use advanced tools, like swimming pools, to help regain muscle strength. Circuit training, intensive repetition of regular everyday activities, and frequent stretching are all part of stroke rehabilitation physiotherapy.
Physiotherapy for Cerebral Palsy Patients
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a set of movement disorders that have been around since birth or early childhood. A person with cerebral palsy will experience the following symptoms:
- Poor coordination
- Stiff and weak muscles
- Compromised speech and hearing
- Vision problems
- Trouble swallowing
Physiotherapy is one of the main components in treatments concerning cerebral palsy. The degree of physical therapy needed by a patient depends on how extreme their condition is. Milder cases of the condition will require lesser physiotherapy than someone with more severe symptoms.
Physiotherapy is most effective when begun at a young age; the older the patient gets, the harder it becomes to treat them. In some cases, physiotherapy is enough to successfully treat a child with cerebral palsy. In other cases, physical therapy may need to be combined with other forms of treatment, like medication.
There are three types of cerebral palsy; each one needs a different type of physical therapy treatment:
Spastic Cerebral Palsy:
People with this kind of CP face muscle tension and jerky movements. Monitored and assisted stretching exercises are employed to provide relief to such patients.
Athetoid Cerebral Palsy:
Those with this form of CP need physiotherapy to help them toe their muscles, increase muscle mass, and become more in control of their overall movements.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy:
Patients with ataxic CP have trouble with the balance due to compromised motor skills; physiotherapy can help with this by employing resistance and strength training exercises.
Successful physiotherapy sessions can also help patients cope with pain from contractures, which is a condition caused by cerebral palsy spasticity.
Cambridge Medical & Rehabilitation Center is the specialized provider for Long-term Care and rehabilitation services in the United Arab Emirates. With 2 main facilities in Abu Dhabi & Al Ain, which are designed in a rehabilitation and long-term care hospital with a capacity of 90 beds each.
Cambridge provides an interdisciplinary clinical approach for Physical Therapy which is customized for adults, adolescents, and children. The best rehabilitation services are not only our goal but our ultimate objective is to customize the care plan for each patient and make sure that the patient’s family and their members are integrated into the treatment plan.
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