How Physical Therapy Can Help Your Recovery

A physical therapist is a specialist trained to work with you to restore your activity, strength, and motion following an injury or surgery. Physical therapists can teach specific exercises, stretches, and techniques and use specialized equipment to address problems that cannot be managed without this specialized physical therapy training.

Physical therapist stretches man's leg
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Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation

Physical therapists are trained to identify deficiencies in the biomechanics of the body. Working with a physical therapist can target specific areas of weakness in the way our bodies work. They can relieve stress and help the body function without pain.

Physical therapists are knowledgeable about surgical procedures and treatment goals and can tailor their efforts to improve their well-being. After surgical procedures, it is important that therapy is guided by the surgical procedure. Physical therapists are knowledgeable about your body's limitations after surgery and can help ensure a successful outcome.

Stretching Tight Muscles and Joints

Stretching is vital in maintaining a good range of motion with joints and the flexibility of muscles. If you have stiff joints or tight muscles, normal activities, such as climbing stairs or reaching overhead, can be severely affected. With proper stretching, these functions can be preserved.

After an injury or surgery, scar tissue forms and soft tissue contracts. It is important to regularly stretch in these situations to ensure that scar formation does not get in the way of your rehabilitation.

Exercises to Strengthen Your Body

Strengthening exercises are performed to help you improve the function of your muscles. The goal is to improve strength, increase endurance and maintain or improve range of motion.

Post-operative exercises should always be guided by your healthcare provider and physical therapist, as there may be specific restrictions for your injury. The following guidelines can help you along your way for knee Injuries, shoulder injuries, back injuries, and neck injuries.

Core Strengthening and Stability

One of the most recent developments in physical therapy is the emphasis on core strengthening and stability. The core of your body is like the foundation of your house. If you were to build your house on a weak foundation, you could risk damage and collapse. Similarly, bodies with a weak core are susceptible to acute injury and chronic overuse syndromes.

Core strengthening emphasizes the muscles of the back and pelvis. Some exercise programs, especially pilates, are fantastic at increasing the body's core stability. That is the reason many professional athletes do regular pilates workouts.

Ice and Heat Application

Ice and heat are useful in warming up and cooling off muscles. In addition, these methods can stimulate blood flow and decrease swelling. These can be important aspects of the therapeutic process. The key to proper ice and heat treatment is knowing when to ice and heat an injury.


Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves (not within the range we can hear) to stimulate the deep tissues within the body. By passing an ultrasound probe over your body, deep tissues are stimulated by the vibration of the sound wave. This leads to warming and increased blood flow to these tissues.

Electrical Stimulation

Electrical stimulation is a therapy that passes an electrical current to an affected area. Nerve conduction within the region is altered, which can, in turn, alter muscle contractility. Blood flow to these tissues is also increased with electrical stimulation. Patients often experience diminished pain after this form of electrical stimulation treatment, which differs from the type of electrical stimulation that is used to contract muscles.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Jonathan Cluett, MD
Jonathan Cluett, MD, is board-certified in orthopedic surgery. He served as assistant team physician to Chivas USA (Major League Soccer) and the United States men's and women's national soccer teams.