Once you become a physical therapist (PT), you will have many tools at your disposal. These tools help PTs rehabilitate injuries, strengthen muscles, and help people get better.
A physical therapy table, bed, couch, and chair are commonly used equipment. A cushioned flat bench with a removable head support is also common. These benches can have between two and seven adjustable sections. This allows the patient to lie down on his or her back or stomach while receiving therapy. They can also be folded to serve as an exercise table or chair. This allows the patient to be comfortable while receiving therapy or being examined. The table can also be used during massage therapy.
Grip and exercise balls can also be helpful. There should also be plenty of exercise mats. Some therapy offices invest in weight machines to help patients build up strength while in therapy.
Wobble boards are sometimes used in physical therapy. They can be helpful in rehabilitating people who have had knee, hip, or ankle surgery. Some people also use them in gymnasiums and different types of sports training to help prevent injuries.
In other cases, patients may use different types of weights for their hands and legs. Elastic bands can also be used.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) uses electric current to stimulate nerves. TENS can be used to reduce different types of chronic and acute pain. TENS can give a patient short-term relief without the need for medication. This machine generates low electrical impulses. These impulses can help block pain signals from reaching the brain. One belief is that TENS helps increase the levels of endorphins generated by the brain.
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The unit is typically applied to the skin using electrodes. The battery-operated unit is then able to modulate intensity, frequency, and pulse width.
TENS is normally used at a frequency above 5 Hz and with an intensity that helps produce motor contraction.  The great part about the TENS unit is that it is low risk and non-invasive. Unfortunately, there is still some controversy regarding how effective the units are for managing chronic pain. Some studies have shown benefit for chronic musculoskeletal pain while others have said it is not as effective.
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Oh the Tools That Sonia Needs
As part of her research, Sonia started reading through a Physical Therapist Equipment List. The physical therapy table looked really interesting.
With all of its moving parts, she could see that the table could be adjusted in many different ways to help a patient get comfortable.
The exercise equipment was interesting too. She had spent a lot of time at the gym over the past few years trying to get back in shape and she was familiar with a lot of the equipment that was used.
What interested Sonia the most was the TENS unit. She would never have imagined that people would use electricity to help relax muscles in the body. Of course in the movies it was sometimes used as a form of torture, and she didn’t realize it was good for much else.
These new tools would obviously take some time to learn. However, Sonia knew that it would be worth the time in order to help people get better.
Cold and heat are the most common types of noninvasive and nonaddictive therapies used. Some therapists will alternate between hot and cold to prepare for different types of exercise therapy.
It is always a good idea to consult with your therapist before using cold and heat therapies. These methods should be used as directed by your physician.
Heat therapy is a method of drawing the blood to the target tissues which increases the blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients to those areas. It can be useful in removing waste from the cells. It can also work to relieve pain, improve range of motion, and even help relax muscles.
There are several different forms of heat including heat compresses and chemical packs. It is important to make sure you always wrap the packs in a towel to reduce the risk of burns.
Cold therapy is often used to reduce inflammation, pain, and muscle spasms. The different types of cold packs include ice cubes, iced towels, frozen vegetables, and of course commercially available cold packs. Normally the duration for cold therapy is no more than 15 minutes.
Always make sure with any therapy that you never apply the heat or cold directly to the skin. It is beneficial to use a towel or some sort of cover to prevent burns and nerve damage.
There are many different tools available on a physical therapist’s equipment list. Some are simple while others are state-of-the-art. One thing that is certain, you will never have a shortage of tools at your disposal as a professional physical therapist.