Physical therapy is administered to help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease. Physical therapy treatment aims to restore, maintain, and promote overall fitness and health. Patients that may require physical therapy include: accident victims and individuals with disabling conditions such as low back pain, arthritis, heart disease, fracture (bone)s, head injuries, and cerebral palsy.
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Muscle-stimulation therapy has been used for many years now. It is a technique that can aid the muscles in healing as well as relieve pain. When there is muscle pain due to injury, illness or lack of muscle movement, muscle-stimulation therapy can give relief and increase muscle activity.
Interferential muscle stimulation is the act of channeling a low-frequency electrical current through muscle. The current is also channeled through the nerves and the connective tissue. The purpose is to help relieve pain by initiating the secretion of endorphins and other natural pain relievers. There are certain injuries that respond well to this form of treatment; they are: sprained ligaments, muscle sprains and strains, and muscle spasms.
Electrotherapy is begun on the body at the point of injury. Electrodes are placed at the injury site, and the technician will gradually increase the electrical output. You will feel an initial tingling sensation. As the current is increased, it will feel stronger but should remain comfortable.
Usually the body will adapt to the current, which will mean an increase in the current must be made every couple of minutes. A treatment period can last from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the condition that is being treated. The majority of patients find electrical muscle stimulation beneficial. It is most often described as a "pins-and-needles" sensation that is comfortable to handle.
There are a number of benefits associated with muscle-stimulation therapy. This form of treatment is usually prescribed to provide relief for chronic pain as well as to help control muscle spasms. It is known to prevent muscle atrophy. It has also been found to reverse signs of atrophy from disuse of the muscle. It increases blood circulation, retrains muscles on how to function properly and increases range of motion as well as helps to maintain it.
When circulation is increased to the muscles, they are more pliable. There is less swelling, which can reduce pain. These are the benefits that can be accomplished with muscle-stimulation therapy.
Cryotherapy is the local or general use of low temperatures in medical therapy or the removal of heat from a body part. The term "cryotherapy" comes from the Greek cryo meaning cold and the word therapy meaning cure. It has been around since the 1880-1890s.
Its goal is to decrease inflammation, decrease pain and spasm, promote vasoconstriction. Other therapies that use the term are cryogenic chamber therapy and ice pack therapy.
Ice pack therapy is a treatment of cold temperatures to an injured area of the body. An ice pack is placed over an injured area and is intended to absorb heat of an injury by using conduction to transfer thermal energy. The physiologic effects of cold application include immediate vasoconstriction with reflexive vasodilation, decreased local metabolism and enzymatic activity, and decreased oxygen demand. Cold decreases muscle spindle fiber activity and slows nerve conduction velocity, therefore it is often used to decrease spasticity and muscle guarding. It is commonly used to alleviate the pain of minor injuries.
Pain and muscle spasms are common responses to injury. Tendons and ligaments are tissues that connect muscles and bones to each other and to other tissues. The basic building material of muscles, tendons, and ligaments is a protein called collagen. Under normal conditions, collagen acts like a rubber band: It stretches when tension is applied (as when we pull a rubber band) and returns to its normal length when the tension is released. However, when the collagen is stretched too far, it tears. In this tearing process, blood vessels are torn and blood cells and fluid escape into the spaces among the muscle fibers. This is sometimes visible on the surface of the skin as a swollen, bruised area.
Cold applied to the area decreases the flow of this fluid into the tissues and slows the release of chemicals that cause pain and inflammation. Cold decreases feeling in an area by reducing the ability of the nerve endings to conduct impulses. It may also reduce pain by "countering" the injury. For example, you might counter the pain of a sore tooth by pinching yourself hard in the leg.
Cold also decreases the activity of cells to reduce swelling and internal bleeding at the site of acute injury. Cooling the deep tissue also reduces muscle spasm by reducing the muscle's ability to maintain a contraction (contractility).
Because cold reduces bleeding and swelling within injured tissue, it is best used in the first 48 hours after an injury and usually longer after a surgery. However, cold therapy (cryotherapy) is not for everyone.
Cryotherapy should not be used on persons who:
- have circulation problems
- are unconscious (such as your local politician)
- are unable to respond or cannot feel cold (for example- someone after a stroke; with a neuropathy; or who has paralysis of a limb)
- are allergic to cold (yes, some people develop a rash and blisters to cold)