What Orthopedic Physical Therapy Can Do For You
Damage to bones and ligaments that protect these bones can become very painful if not treated promptly and properly. Orthopedic Physical Therapy is a type of therapy that deals with the human musculoskeletal system which means your joints, muscles and ligaments. The human body needs for its joints to be in top shape in order to move around and perform actions which are vital to daily living such as getting out of bed in the morning, lifting your hand to your mouth to eat, walking, sitting, standing or even lying down. Should only one joint be damaged, all of these actions could be affected and the quality of living starts to decline.
An orthopedic physical therapist can diagnose and treat any injuries or disorders of these joints and bones and can help the individual cope and recover after surgery as well. Even something as seemingly small as a sprained muscle can be treated and should not be considered as something small as it can lead to consequential damage to other adjacent muscle groups that have to compensate for the lack of use of the sprained muscle.
Types Of Orthopedic Physical Therapy Treatments
Orthopedic physical therapy uses many tools to stimulate or treat different muscle groups. Some of the treatments that are used to get patients up and going again are:
- Joint and spine mobilization
- Joint and spine manipulation
- Dry Needling
- Exercises that target specific areas
- Hot or cold packs
- Electrical muscle stimulation
There are several other methods being tested and each orthopedic physical therapist will have their own way of diagnosing and treating a patient, but these methods are explained to the patient in advance to avoid panic or discomfort.
Sonography is often used to diagnose the damage to the joint or muscle and the treatment will be decided based on the findings on the sonogram. With the advances in technology it is much easier in this age to perform therapy in the most non-evasive way possible. When there is not interference with the tissue surrounding the injury, recovery tends to be smoother and faster.
When the damage to the joint and surrounding tissue is severe and will cause more damage with time, surgery is often the only option. The patient would have to remain as immobilized as possible after the surgery which tends to cause stiffness in the joints and muscles. When an allocated amount of time has passed after the surgery, the orthopedic physical therapy can begin so that the patient can become mobile again and movement to the stiff joints can gradually be returned. Although this may sound effortless, it is very important for the patient to follow the instructions of their therapist explicitly to avoid further damage and to not over reach in the haste to get mobile again. The process to recovery should be gradual as well as challenging to strengthen the muscles and joints before complete use of the injured joint is restored.
Joint And Spine Mobilization
This type of therapy involves massaging the tissue surrounding the pain in order to soften the tissue that may have tightened because of strain to the muscle or ligaments or due to an injury to the area. The aim is to get the muscles around the joint to relax so that the joint can return to normal functionality.
Joint And Spine Manipulation
Manipulation of the joints and spine has not been effective in the long term, but this technique does go a long way to alleviate pain. Manipulation should not be performed by the patient on themselves or by anyone who has not had training as this form of therapy could be dangerous if the wrong amount of force is applied or if the force is directed in the wrong place.
Dry needling is also known as intramuscular stimulation and is done by inserting needles into the affected muscle. The technique is similar to the practice of Acupuncture but is not quite as extensive as Acupuncture technique and theory. Several studies have been done to prove that the effects are the same when the needles are pushed into certain receptive points in the body which relieves pain and relaxes tense muscles.
Exercises That Target Specific Areas
Stretching muscles in various ways improve blood flow to the affected area and it also keeps the muscles from tensing up or stiffening. These exercises are used over a gradual space of time after it has been established that the injury will not be worsened by movement and should be done slowly and carefully.
Hot Or Cold Packs
Any cold or hot compress can be used in this treatment as well as creams which simulate the action as a cold or hot pack. There are many forms of gel packs available that can be used hot or cold by simply placing them in the fridge or a boiling pot of water. The therapist will be able to tell if the patient should be using hot or cold compressed to alleviate the swelling or pain to the joints, but generally the patient will be able to tell as well which of the two will bring pain relief.
Electrical Muscle Stimulation
Electric impulses are passed through the muscle and these impulses target muscle fiber trigger its movement. This tool is used for strengthening muscles around a sore joint that has not been used for a while as well as testing to see if the muscles are working properly. Many athletes also use Electrical Muscle stimulation to train in between regular training sessions to avoid overworking muscles. This form of testing and treatment is becoming more and more popular among professional.
With traction a force is applied to the neck and spine in a pulling motion. This treatment relieves pain and compression of the neck and spine and has been very effective to improve mobility of the vertebrae.
Different Kinds Of Ailments Treated
There is so much that can go wrong with joints and bones because there are so many bones in the human body and they are all interconnected by muscle and ligaments.
A few of the ailments treated by Orthopedic Physical Therapy are:
- Lower back pain
- General back pain
- Hip displacement
- Pain in the hip joint
- Post-surgery rehabilitation
- Shoulder Pain
- General weakness of the muscles and joints
- Over-use of the joints such as tennis elbow
Being A Orthopedic Physical Therapist
An Orthopedic Physical Therapist is charged with the diagnosing, management and treatment of disorders and injuries of the muscular or skeletal system. These occur mainly in the joints. The physical therapist needs to have a good knowledge of how the bones fit together and where the nerve endings are as to not cause any damage while treatment or examination. Very often it could happen that a nerve moves between the bones when a joint is moved or manipulated and this could cause the patient immeasurable pain and discomfort which could also lead to temporary paralysis. The physical therapist needs to know how to move and manipulate the bones of the human body to promote healing and mobility instead of causing more damage.
The Most Treated Cases
The most cases for which a patient would seek out an Orthopedic Physical Therapist would be for back and hip pain. Because the human spine is so important for the balance and mobility of the body, it takes tremendous strain.
There are many muscles and ligaments in the hip joints and these could become damaged in a number of ways. Hip and back problems are very common in females who wear high heel shoes because the wearing of these shoes completely changes the posture and puts strain on ligaments and muscles that are not meant to take such strain.
Treating Of Hip Pain With Orthopedic Physical Therapy As An example
Determining The Cause
When visiting a therapist for pain in the hip, the patient can expect to first be evaluated. The patient is asked to walk around while the physical therapist evaluates the way in which the patient is walking. The therapist will be able to notice even the smallest amount of change in the way the hip moves while the patient walks. The therapist will then also ask the patient questions about when the pain started and what happened to initiate the pain as well as what soothes or aggravates the pain. From there an assessment can be done and a diagnosis can be made as to what the problem is and how it can be treated.
The therapist may then also feel the area around the hip for any abnormalities in the area and where on the joint it is the most painful to touch. The range of motion is also tested to see how far and in which direction the hip joint is able to move without causing pain to the patient, which will then give the therapist a broader picture of what the cause of the pain may be and which exercises or treatment would be the most effective on the hip.
Because there are so many muscles attached to the hip, it is also very important that the therapist tests how strong these muscles are and where there may be a weakening of the muscles. When an injury is sustained, the muscles around the area tend to compensate for the muscles that are damaged and the body is programmed not to use that group of muscles to promote healing. The other muscles will then naturally be stronger because of the extra stimulation which causes the muscles around the affected area to weaken. By testing the strength of the muscles in the entire region, the therapist can determine as well where more attention should be given during rehabilitation.
The Plan Of Action For Hip Problems
After the cause of the problem has been found a plan can be drawn up for the treatment and rehabilitation. A choice will have to be made between surgery and rehabilitation or for only manipulation and rehabilitation. Surgery is usually left as a plan for the worst cases, but it is always wise to go see your therapist if there is discomfort or pain in any joint because it may not get better with time and a case that could have been healed by manipulation and exercises, now would have to go through surgery.
For muscular or ligament damage, the application of ice or heat may soothe the pain and help the process of healing. The heat increases blood flow to the area which encourages the body to begin the healing process by itself while the application of ice may soothe away painful inflammation which is causing more damage to the area than good.
Apart from the exercises performed at the orthopedic physical therapy practice, the therapist will also give the patient exercises that will have to be done at home as well. These exercises keep the joints and the muscles operational and supple. When muscles are not used, they tend to stiffen and the use of these muscles at a time when the injury has healed will be painful to the point where the patient would not want to use the muscle. For this reason, the exercises are important to regain normal use of the joint and muscle again as soon as possible.
Because the hip is such a major joint in the body, it needs optimum mobility and care should be taken to protect this joint from injury and to heal as soon as possible. Many patients that experience osteoporosis have problems in the hip joints because this area is used so often and there is a great deal of gradual wear to this area from walking, running and bending. A good way to compliment any other treatment of the hips is to do strengthening exercises which will then take the strain off the ligaments and the bones because the muscle mass around the bones will provide adequate support.