Physical therapy is made up of a series of modalities used to help improve range of motion and reduce pain in different areas of the body. Specifically, physical therapy modalities target inflammation and stiffness within the musculoskeletal system, and they focus on strengthening and stretching the muscles to help relieve pressure on the joints.
One of the main types of physical therapy is manual therapy, which is a series of hands-on manipulation techniques targeted at joint pain and muscle stiffness. You can learn more about these techniques on our manual therapy page.
In this page, we will walk you through the other types of physical therapy modalities, conditions they are used to treat, and the benefits of each.
Types of Physical Therapy Modalities
There are several types of physical therapy modalities that aim to reduce pain and inflammation in the body and improve range of motion and mobility. In many cases, these modalities are used in combination with each other to increase a person’s overall recovery.
Some of the most common physical therapy modalities include:
- Exercise — There are two types of exercise for physical therapy: passive and active. During passive exercise, the patient relaxes while the physical therapist applies stress to the muscles. An example of this is a hamstring stretch where the patient lies on their back and the physical therapist lifts the leg to apply stress and stretch the hamstring muscle in the back of the leg. Active exercise is when the patient applies the stress to the muscles themselves. This is accomplished through certain strength training exercises, typically with the purpose to improve muscle strength in the affected area to relieve pressure on a compressed nerve or a damaged joint. An example of this would be core exercises to reduce pressure on a pinched nerve in the lumbar spine.
- Ultrasound — An ultrasound is a type of treatment that allows heat waves from the ultrasound wand to be directly absorbed into the skin. This type of physical therapy modality is typically used for muscle strains and ligament sprains, as well as for tendinitis.
- Electrical stimulation and TENS — TENS (transcutaneous electrical neuromuscular stimulation) and electrical stimulation are two types of physical therapy modalities that are used to address tissue injuries.
- Traction — Traction is a type of mechanically assisted stretch, often used to help provide length to the neck or back. This type of modality is commonly used to reduce the pressure on a pinched nerve within the cervical or lumbar spine. During the process, you will be asked to sit or stand against a traction machine that helps facilitate a stretch along different areas of your spine.
- Kinesiology taping — Kinesiology taping is a specific type of taping strategy that is used to help support the muscles surrounding a weakened joint, as well as improve circulation, reduce bruising and relieve inflammation in the area. It is often used between therapy sessions for athletes to help improve functionality to the damaged area of the body.
These physical therapy modalities are often combined to create a personalized treatment plan for a patient, depending on their specific condition and recovery goals.
Conditions Treated by Physical Therapy Modalities
Physical therapy modalities can be used to treat any number of musculoskeletal conditions. Some of the most common conditions treated by physical therapy include:
- Joint and muscle pain
- Strains and sprains
- Balance and vestibular issues
- Gait issues
- Limited range of motion
- Golfer’s elbow/tennis elbow
- Foot and ankle pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
This list is not exhaustive of all the conditions that can be treated with physical therapy, but it’s a good start. Typically anything that affects the muscles, joints or bones of the body can be treated with a series of physical therapy modalities.
Benefits of Physical Therapy Modalities
The most obvious benefits of physical therapy modalities are a decrease in pain and an increase in mobility. Specific benefits of seeking this type of treatment include:
- Increased range of motion
- Decreased inflammation in the joints
- Improved mobility within the spine
- Fewer aches and pains in the muscles and joints
- Improved strength and stability
The biggest benefit of seeking physical therapy modalities early on when you first recognize that your pain may be more chronic than temporary is that it is proven to reduce the risk of future surgery. The goal of physical therapy isn’t just to fix your current condition; it’s to help improve your overall musculoskeletal composition to reduce your risk of future injuries.
Scheduling an appointment with a physical therapist is one of the best things you can do to address your chronic pain before it really starts affecting your quality of life.
Schedule an Appointment
If you’re ready to schedule an appointment for physical therapy, contact our team at Lattimore Physical Therapy today. We have locations throughout upstate New York; visit our locations page to find a clinic near you. Our team typically gets back to patients within 24 to 48 hours of initial contact. Let us help you find relief from your chronic pain, so you can get back to the lifestyle you enjoy.