What Are the 8 Most Common Physical Therapy Treatments?

patient getting physical therapy treatments

Physical therapists have many different types of treatments, or modalities, to choose from when helping their patients rehabilitate from an injury. The sheer array of potential injuries they encounter means they have to consider which physical therapy treatments may help to provide individualized care.

Before beginning any form of physical rehabilitation technique, it’s critical you seek the care and guidance of a medical professional. Starting the wrong kind of technique could put you at risk for improper healing or even cause more damage.

Today, we’re giving you a look at the most common physical therapy treatments you may encounter. Work with your doctor to determine which of the many different types of physical therapy treatments will be best for you.

Common Physical Therapy Treatments

Every person’s recovery (and injury) is unique to them, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to physical therapy and rehabilitation. Instead, medical experts consider many different types of physical therapy treatments for what may work best and achieve the desired outcome. These choices may be based on factors like the type of injury, age, medical history, mobility, and more.

Some of the most common physical therapy treatments you may be prescribed as you recover include:

  1. Types of exercise
  2. Electrical stimulation
  3. Acupuncture
  4. Aquatic therapy (also called hydrotherapy)
  5. Heat and cold therapy
  6. Massage
  7. Traction or spinal decompression
  8. Kinesiology taping (also known as K-tape)

1. Types of Exercise

It should come as no surprise that the first entry on our list of different types of physical therapy treatments is exercise. What you may be unaware of, however, is that there are many styles and techniques of exercise that may be beneficial as part of your physical therapy treatments. These exercises are often broken down into two categories:

Passive exercise: This kind of exercise used during physical therapy treatments is when the patient sits back and has restorative pressure acted on them by a therapist. For example, a physical therapist may do a hamstring stretch wherein the patient lies flat on their back while the therapist lifts their leg to stretch out the hamstring.

Active exercise: Active exercise is a physical activity you do with your own power and exertion. Common examples of active exercise used as part of different types of physical therapy treatments include walking on a treadmill or doing shoulder rotations.

2. Electrical Stimulation

Next up on our list of common physical therapy treatments is electrical stimulation. There are different kinds of electrical stimulation a physical therapist may use depending on the desired result.

For example, transcutaneous electrical neuromuscular stimulation (TENS) is used to provide pain relief around damaged tissue. This may be effective for helping patients get the relief they need to be able to perform other types of physical therapy treatments during their recovery. Another form of electrical stimulation used is neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES). This may be helpful for patients whose muscles need to be stimulated to function properly again.

3. Acupuncture

While acupuncture may not have definitive studies proving its effectiveness for everyone, it’s one of many different types of physical therapy treatments you may find pairs well with your recovery. Rooted in ancient Eastern medicine, acupuncture is meant to reduce physical tension and trigger points while calming down the body’s nervous system.

Acupuncture treatments are often complementary physical therapy treatments meant to enhance the benefits of the rest of your recovery routine. Reducing muscle tension and providing pain relief can help you push yourself a little further during your rehabilitation, promoting a full restoration of range of motion and mobility.

4. Aquatic Therapy (Hydrotherapy)

Aquatic therapy, also called hydrotherapy, is another common physical therapy treatment, especially for those who may benefit from low-impact exercise. For example, patients may use hydrotherapy techniques like swimming in a pool to help with how to treat leg injuries and avoid weight-bearing pain triggers.

Activities that fall into this category of different types of physical therapy treatments may also be immensely helpful for those living with arthritis, osteoporosis, or treating other age-related diseases.

5. Heat and Cold Therapy

Just like recovering from a sports injury at home, applying heat and cold are common physical therapy treatments. Cold packs are most often recommended for the initial period following an injury. Apply cold packs to the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, several times a day to reduce swelling and inflammation.

Heat therapy often comes after this period, and is used to increase blood circulation and help enhance how the body heals itself. Heat helps relax muscles, provide pain relief, and heal injured tissue.

Instead of relying on small heating pads, many physical therapists have noted the benefits of zero gravity chairs for these kinds of physical therapy treatments. Not only are they designed to enhance all the same effects, but heated zero gravity chairs provide better application along the body and will have you feeling better in no time. Additionally, owning a zero gravity chair at home means you can use these features as often as you need, on your schedule.

6. Massage

Next on this list of common physical therapy treatments is massage. Getting a massage is not a vanity exercise, but a profoundly effective method of self-care for physical and mental wellness. There are many different types of massage techniques you may consider, including effleurage, petrissage, and tapping.

For those looking to combine different types of physical therapy treatments at home on their schedule, zero gravity chairs prove effective again. The best zero gravity chairs for physical therapy treatments offer heat therapy and massage functions to enhance your overall experience. With the benefits of vibration or air pressure massage (sometimes called air cell massage), you can deepen your relaxation and recover more efficiently.

7. Traction or Spinal Decompression

The terms traction and spinal decompression are often used interchangeably when discussing common physical therapy treatments. This type of treatment is meant to alleviate pressure on the lower spine by improving the space between discs. Not only can spinal decompression be beneficial for lower back pain, but it may help improve mobility and flexibility, as well.

You can achieve spinal decompression at home with a variety of tools. Some consider inversion tables or traction machines to help, but those can be cumbersome and something you have to store when not in use. Instead, using zero gravity chairs for spinal decompression is also an option. The zero gravity reclining position alleviates excess pressure on the lower back that could be causing pain and speeds up spinal healing.

The best part is, once you’re done using it for that purpose, it’s also an aesthetically-pleasing recliner that will fit into almost any interior design style.

8. Kinesiology Taping

Kinesiology taping, or K-tape, makes our list of physical therapy treatments, as well. This medical tape is made of a flexible fabric that moves with your body, making it effective for use while recovering. K-tape may be used for different types of physical therapy treatments including:

  • Muscle control, or preventing muscles from moving
  • Muscle engagement, to retrain muscles to work together
  • Swelling management
  • Pain relief for injured areas

K-tape is one of the newer types of physical therapy treatments, so more studies need to be done to demonstrate its widespread effectiveness. Nevertheless, you may want to consult your physical therapist about its potential to help with your recovery.

Just like there are many kinds of injuries, there are many different types of physical therapy treatments. Each body reacts differently during recovery, making it essential that you consult a medical expert before beginning any form of recovery or rehabilitation routine. With their guidance, you can consider various common physical therapy treatments and tools to see which may work best for you.

Want to learn more about using zero gravity chairs for physical therapy treatment? Consult our guide to the potential benefits of zero gravity chairs and see how they will positively impact your lifestyle even after your recovery is complete.