We often get questions about the different types of physical therapy, and we’re often asked what each specialty is all about. What is orthopedic physical therapy? What is geriatric physical therapy? We’ve put together a list of some of the most common types of PT to outline the basics of each practice.
Physical therapists help people to return to a normal life and recover after a disease, injury or other incident. These therapists can actually specialize in a number of different fields that fall under the general physical therapy heading. There are several different types of physical therapy being performed today.
Orthopedic therapy is the most commonly available form of physical therapy. This physical therapy treats injuries to the muscles, bones and other tissue in the body. People needing this type of therapy could have been injured while working or playing sports. They might also have injuries due to surgery or a chronic disease. Orthopedic physical therapy usually includes exercises, manual therapy to increase range of motion and other techniques that will help to relieve pain and restore mobility.
Physical therapists can perform treatments that help with wound care. This type of physical therapy involves making sure the body is getting enough blood and oxygen to a wound. This includes necrotic wounds, chronic wounds and wounds that are not healing after surgery. Therapists can use manual techniques to improve circulation. They could also use electrical stimulation therapies to increase healing. Therapists sometimes regularly clean wounds, remove dead tissue and use compression techniques.
Children have different needs when it comes to physical therapy. Pediatric therapists specialize in treating children of all ages who have problems with movement, strength or coordination. They can put together custom therapies to help improve strength, dexterity and control. Pediatric therapists also ensure children are connecting cognitively to the body and the surrounding environment. Children who are suffering from a chronic disease, a neurological disorder or who have sustained a serious injury could benefit from a pediatric physical therapy. These physical therapists frequently use techniques from other specialties when treating children.
Anyone who has undergone a serious cardiopulmonary event like a heart attack could need to see a cardiopulmonary physical therapist. This is often necessary because the heart could be in a weakened state after recovery. A therapist will work with patients in order to start slowly strengthening the heart and body. This includes increasing stamina through exercise. Individuals who undergo cardiopulmonary physical therapy can sometimes return to a normal and independent lifestyle.
Vestibular physical therapists primarily help people who have sustained damage to the mechanisms of the inner ear. This affects balance and coordination. The therapy uses a number of manual techniques in order to help people start to compensate for the new signals being received from the inner ear. The goal of vestibular physical therapy is to teach the brain how to adapt to the changes in the inner ear. This can increase the coordination and mobility of patients.
A number of problems can start to affect a person because of age. Geriatric physical therapy specializes in helping individuals overcome some of the common issues that form later in life. This includes reduced mobility due to arthritis, weakened bones and muscles due to osteoporosis and difficulty moving after surgery to replace or repair joints. Each treatment routine is different depending on the individual and the extent of the problems. Effective geriatric therapy can allow older people to live more active and fulfilling lives with less pain.
Decongestive physical therapy deals mainly with patients who have edema or problems with the lymph nodes. These individuals accumulate fluids in parts of the body like the arms and legs. Decongestive therapists can drain these fluids when they become too painful or problematic. Therapists can also use compression, exercise and other treatments in order to minimize the buildup of fluids in the body. Regular decongestive therapy can help to keep conditions like lymphedema under control.
Any individual who has neurological issues can benefit from specialized physical therapy. Unlike other therapies that focus on specific bone or muscle injuries, neurological therapists focus on the brain and the body. People suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, healing after a traumatic brain injury or recovering from a stroke are all potential candidates for this type of therapy. Therapists can work to increase the response of limbs, undo some forms of paralysis and strengthen muscles that have started to atrophy. Some neurological therapists are able to help patients get back to a state where living independently is possible again.