Unless you have been a physical patient, you may be unfamiliar with how the therapy is conducted. Physical therapists use several modalities to treat patients. These modalities facilitate the healing process, through strengthening and flexibility. When the nervous system communicates a message to the muscle to contract, when force or resistance is applied, the muscle develops strength. The force or resistance can be in the form of a dumbbell, water in aquatic therapy, or by the body’s own weight. The strength process is facilitated by a variety of modalities.
Hot Packs: Heat causes the muscles to relax and increases blood and oxygen flow. Physical therapists utilize heat packs to reduce spasms and tension that is afflicting the injured area. The hot packs bring the muscle to a pliable state, which reduces the risk of further injury. Once the muscle is in a state to be worked safely, then the strengthening process can begin.
Cold Packs: Cold packs, wrapped in towels, decrease the inflammation, pain and swelling that is a result of working the injured muscle. Cold packs are made of a gel substance that easily conforms to the entire surface of the affected area.
Ultrasound: Ultrasound machines produce low frequency sound waves. These waves are transmitted to the muscle and surrounding tissue. The deep penetration has a warming affect and assists in relaxing the muscle so that the patients will experience the maximum benefit from the physical therapy. There is no pain involved with the therapy, as the frequency is so low.
Tens: Tens stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. A tens machine is similar to an ultrasound machine, but is designed to reduce pain through electrical transmition. Electrodes, affixed to the affected area, transmit electrical waves through the electrodes. The patient feels a slight tingling sensation in the muscle and skin, but it is so minimal that it produces no discomfort.
These and other widely accepted modalities are utilized in a physical therapy setting. Physical therapists stay current on new technologies and modalities, and take an innovative approach to their craft. It is this approach, that makes physical therapy so successful.