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What is Orthopedic Physical Therapy?

As humans, we all have one thing in common: We are all made up of 206 bones, with muscles and ligaments that holds us together. If you have suffered an injury or ailment that has affected your bones, joints or muscles, you can benefit from the services of a skilled orthopedic physical therapist.

Orthopedic physical therapy is the treatment of the human musculoskeletal system. Ailments such as strains, fractures and sprains can all benefit from a good dose of orthopedic physical therapy, no matter where on the body they are located upper and lower body, neck, back and even extremities can be successfully treated with physical therapy.

occupational therapist helping patient walk

When is Orthopedic Physical Therapy Necessary?

Commonly, orthopedic physical therapy is required after an operation has taken place in areas that are critical to movement, such as your knees, elbows and shoulders, or where a whole joint has been replaced, such as in cases of total hip replacement.

Additionally, orthopedic physical therapy is necessary when you have an injury that is preventing you from undertaking regular activities or enjoying your normal everyday life. Orthopedic physical therapy is designed to help heal your injury and improve strength, motion and overall functional ability in the affected area.

Any condition that causes limited mobility or pain as a result of an injury can benefit from orthopedic physical therapy.

In cases of post-surgery orthopedic physical therapy, your surgeon may want you to adhere to certain limitations in order to eliminate damage or shorten the healing process. Your physical therapist can help you through your post-operative rehabilitation steps to get you back to normal.

Is Orthopedic Physical Therapy Painful?

No, not always! Your physical therapy uses many tools and methods to aid you in your rehabilitation journey. While your therapist may use various tools and instruments to help you and aid recovery such as knee supports, exercise is the central and most crucial part of orthopedic physical therapy. There are many exercises you may be required to undertake, such as:

  • Stretching and flexibility
  • Strength-building exercises
  • Exercises to restore a regular range of motion
  • Exercises to improve balance

These exercises are not high intensity and are not designed to push you to your limit or wear you down. They are designed to help heal your injury and restore your movement. Your physical therapist will teach you how to perform these exercises and decide which ones you can do as part of a home exercise routine.

Your physical therapist can also improve your recovery by adopting several tools as part of your exercise and overall care routine, such as:

  • Canes, crutches, and walkers
  • Exercise tools and aids
  • Prosthetics
  • Therapeutic use of ice and heat therapy
  • Ultrasound and electrical stimulation

Your physical therapist will always try to adopt methods and exercises that cause the least amount of pain possible, but due to the nature of some injuries and the importance of recovery, this may not always be possible. Although you may experience some pain, it will be short lived.

physiotherapist massaging patient leg

Role of the Physical Therapist

A physical therapist takes a very active role in the healing process. Initially, the physical therapist can examine your symptoms and discuss a possible treatment plan with you. At your first appointment, your therapist will get to know you and understand your history, injury and any treatments you have already undergone.

Your therapist's goal is to restore your joints or muscles to the state they were before injury or surgery through improving your strength, balance and coordination.

Before initiating any sort of physical therapy, the therapist will try to reduce any pain or swelling or wait for the natural healing process to have an effect. This prevents any unnecessary discomfort or pain that might be felt throughout your therapy.

Physical therapy typically involves exercise, and your therapist's primary role is to design an exercise regime that is specifically tailored to your injury and recovery. Orthopedic physical therapy sessions take place a few times per week over the course of several weeks or months, depending on your injury, and it is important to dedicate yourself to promote recovery.

Choosing a Physical Therapist

There is a group called the American Physical Therapy Association that is designed to accredit certain physical therapists who have passed the necessary examinations related to their specific areas of expertise. Recognized orthopedic physical therapists have proven themselves as experts in treating musculoskeletal conditions and have gone through rigorous training in this field.

You can recognize accredited orthopedic physical therapists by the use of the letters OCS (Orthopedic Clinical Specialist) after their names, and there are plenty of contact details for such people online or through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists.

knee hamstring muscle rehab training

Benefits of Orthopedic Physical Therapy

Orthopedic physical therapy helps strengthen your muscles, joints and bones and is primarily used on patients who are suffering from an injury or condition that is inhibiting movement. Orthopedic physical therapy can help reduce pain and prevent it from returning in the future by using techniques such as electrical stimulation and therapeutic exercises.

Although orthopedic physical therapy is commonly used post-surgery, it can help prevent surgery by healing and eliminating pains associated with injuries. If left untreated, injuries could manifest into more serious problems that could require surgical intervention.

After Physical Therapy

Make sure you discuss with your orthopedic physical therapist the steps you should take after your one-on-one physical therapy sessions are over.

Some individuals simply readjust back to their old lives and habits after their therapy has ended and their injury has healed. Others may have longer-lasting injuries or conditions that require further check-ups, therapy sessions later down the line or daily exercise at home.

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