8 physical therapy methods explained

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physical therapy methods

Physical therapists are trained in the art of assessing the human body and restoring it to optimal performance following an injury. They have some of the most cutting edge technology at their disposal (including lasers!) but their most useful tool for treatment may be their hands. A recent article on Greatist reviewed the most popular physical therapy treatment options for any type of injury. These treatment options are used by physical therapists to treat a variety of ailments, big and small.

Manual therapy

Best for: any injury.

Physical therapists use tactics like stretching, massage, and hands-on strengthening exercises to re-educate the body into proper movement and mechanics.


Best for: injuries involving inflammation and swelling.

Ice can be a major component of treating an injury. It is an effective way to reduce and prevent inflammation immediately following an injury.

Related products: Relief Pak® Blue Vinyl Cold Packs


Best for: injuries involving muscular spasms and tightness.

Applying heat to an injured area has been shown to decrease pain and increase mobility – especially after injuries involving soft tissues, such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Related products: Relief Pak® Moist Heat Packs


Best for: connective tissue injuries.

By using sound waves to generate heat deep in the body, ultrasound therapy can help loosen up tissues in preparation for manual therapy or exercise.

Low-level laser

Best for: muscular or connective tissue injuries.

Laser therapy uses specific wavelengths of light to stimulate healing. It can help reduce inflammation, muscle fatigue, and pain. It allows the therapist to move the affected joint with less discomfort for the patient.


Best for: disc herniation.

Traction involves separating the vertebrae to allow for more space for nerves and less compression on disc cartilage. Some research shows that traction can be an effective method for reducing pain and enhancing the quality of life for patients with herniated lumbar discs.

Functional Electrical Stimulation

Best for: restoring muscular strength.

Electrical stimulation is a common treatment option for restoring muscular function following a traumatic injury.

Related product: FabStim® TENS Units


Best for: staying healthy after sustaining an injury.

Exercise is the go-to strategy for treating and preventing pain. Exercises patients perform after an injury are usually hand-picked by the therapist to help patients move better. The exercises will strengthen targeted muscles and address muscle imbalances.

Related products: CanDo® exercise products

Editor’s note: This information should not be used in lieu of professional medical advice. If you think you have an injury, seek treatment from your primary healthcare physician.