Games Your Physical Therapist Plays in the Therapy Clinic

So you've had your physical therapy treatment and have gone home. You've done your stretches and worked on your strengthening exercises for your home exercise program. You may be feeling a little bit better about your condition and are excited to get back to physical therapy to show your therapist the gains you have been making.

Physical therapist taking notes with patient in examination room
Hero Images / Getty Images

But what does your physical therapist (PT) do when the last patient leaves? What happens when the notes are all done and the therapeutic modalities are all placed back where they belong? How do PTs have fun?

Your physical therapist is usually a very professional person, but when all the patients go home, it is time for fun and games. Here are some of the silly things that go on in the PT clinic when the patients have all gone home. Not every PT does these, and some may never participate in clinic games. But, others may have a bit of levity in their day and participate in these physical therapy games.

Stool Races

You may have seen the rolling stools that your physical therapist sits upon during your physical therapy sessions. They are perfect for working with patients and quickly moving about the clinic. They also make great vehicles for racing. Your physical therapist may often challenge another PT to a stool race at the end of the workday.

Stool races can be fun, and the race usually feels a bit like exercise. Different stool racing techniques work for different muscle groups. If your PT is pushing theirself backward on the stool, then their quadriceps muscles are primarily being used. The forward motion of the stool can be accomplished by digging your heels into the floor and pulling yourself across the floor on the stool. In this case, the hamstrings are being used. Keep in mind that a carpeted floor is much more difficult to get the stool moving when compared to a tiled floor.

Games With Electrical Stimulation

Electrical stimulation is often used by your physical therapist to help achieve various goals in the physical therapy clinic. Iontophoresis is used to introduce medicine to injured tissues with the aid of electrical stimulation. If you have chronic pain, TENS may be an option.

Some types of electrical stimulation are used to help your muscles contract. These types, like Russian stimulation and neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), can also be used by your physical therapist in a bit of competitive play.

Here is how the game works: Two physical therapists hook up electrodes to one of their muscles and then connect the electrodes to an NMES unit. The stimulation unit is used to artificially contract muscles, and as the intensity of the stimulation is increased, the amount of muscle contraction increases. A forceful muscle contraction caused by NMES can be quite uncomfortable.

Each physical therapist controls the intensity level of the other's NMES electrodes. The game begins by slowly increasing the intensity of the stimulation to your challenger's muscle. Each therapist notches the NMES unit up to one level at a time until one of the players cannot tolerate the discomfort of a strong muscle contraction that occurs with NMES. The first therapist to "tap out" is the loser of the game.

Of course, this game should only be played by trained professionals and should not be attempted at home.

Games With Paraffin

Paraffin wax is a therapeutic modality used in physical therapy to help heat and moisturize body parts. It is often used in the treatment of hand injuries and conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome. Paraffin is applied to your body part by dipping it into hot wax repeatedly. Your body part with the hot wax is then wrapped in towels and you can relax with the paraffin for a few minutes.

When your physical therapist has a few extra minutes at the end of a long day, he or she may want to play a few paraffin games. The first game is a challenging game of attempting to remove paraffin from a hand while maintaining the shape of the hand. The therapist who can take the paraffin off their hand and make a complete wax glove wins the game.

Once the paraffin is removed from your hand, it can be used to make shapes like small spheres or cubes. Many physical therapists use the paraffin balls to play a little game of basketball by tossing them into a garbage can located across the PT clinic. Small paraffin cubes can be used as dice for a friendly game of craps.

Heart Rate Control Games

Acute care physical therapists on the hospital floors or in cardiac rehabilitation clinics may be playing heart rate control games once the end of the day rolls around. To do this, an electric heart rate monitor is used. Your physical therapist may challenge another PT to play "Guess My Heart Rate." Each person takes a guess at what his or her heart rate is, and then measures his heart rate with the monitor. Closest one wins.

Another game to play with a heart rate monitor is to try to control your heart rate by using relaxation techniques. To play, the heart rate monitor is applied and a baseline heart rate is taken. Then, your physical therapist attempts to lower her heart rate through relaxation and controlled breathing techniques.


Most physical therapists are pretty active people, and some face the heavy lifting of equipment and patients during each day. Most likely, once the PT clinic shuts down, your physical therapist engages in regular physical exercise to help maintain optimum health. That way, he or she can be sure that you get the most out of each therapy session.

A Word from Verywell

If you have suffered an injury or illness and have required physical therapy, most likely your physical therapist was a professional individual who provided you with optimum care and respect. Once the patients go home and the clinic closes, your physical therapist may need to blow off a little steam by engaging in these physical therapy fun and games.

Be sure to ask if your physical therapist has tried any of these games, and see if he or she has any different games that are played once the end of the day rolls around.

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.