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Physical therapy


Physical therapy is a form of treatment using physical stimuli such as:

  • electric current
  • hot and cold temperatures
  • light
  • ultrasounds
  • magnetic field
  • water baths and showers

The origins of this method date back to 460-380 BC. At the time  physiotherapy treatment was limited to the use of the healing influence of sun rays and mineral water (stimuli still applied nowadays) or natural sources of electric current, like some fish species placed on the body. The development of the civilization and the technology brought sources of new stimuli ( electromagnetic field, ultrasounds, laser), and some natural stimuli were generated artificially (electric current, heat, ultraviolet rays). Currently, physical stimuli are applied with the use of purpose constructed devices and machines, which meet special technical requirements. They enable precise dozing of the stimuli and ensure high safety of the treatments.

How does physical therapy work

The way physical therapy operates, depends on the type of stimuli, its strength ( intensity and time) and the responsiveness of the body. For example: when you are exposed to the sun rays, your skin gets tanned ?the stimulus is ultraviolet radiation, one of the responses is the release of pigmentmelanin. If exposure to the sun rays is short, the suntan will not appear. If too long at high sun exposure ? you may get sunburnt. People with pale complexion may be negatively affected even by small doses of sun rays. Various stimuli may lead to different responses or groups of responses. Heat exposure widens blood vessels ? cold exposure narrows them. Ultrasounds lower muscle tension, electro-exercise decreases or increases muscle tension depending on current parameters. Impulse currents of suitable parameters also have painkilling properties. Matching the stimulus type with its intensity it is possible to achieve intended aim of the treatment. Some physical treatments have a direct influence on cells and improve their functioning (bio-stimulation). This way natural abilities of human organism are stimulated to fight the disease.

When is physical therapy applied

Physical therapy can be applied as additional treatment or the basic form of treatment. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of physical therapy as an independent method of treatment, for muscular-skeletal diseases, has not been proved sufficiently. It is advisable when other forms of treatment failed but recommendations still are for physical therapy.

Physical therapy can also be combined with pharmacotherapy . It is often the case, that negative side effects of applied medicines force patients to stop using prescribed drugs. Some painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicines used may cause irritation of digestive system, especially among those suffering from ulcers.

Physical therapy treatments of painkilling or anti-inflammatory nature can be very helpful because they hardly ever cause any side effects. Physical therapy is also used as preparatory proceedings for other forms of physiotherapy e.g. warming up tissues before a massage or kriotherapy (cold application) before exercise or kinezytherapy.

Who performs physical therapy treatments

University graduates with MA / BA degree in Physiotherapy and Licensed Physical therapists are authorized to perform physical treatments. Beside university /college trainings, they undergo additional training at work concerning the safety measures for physical therapy devices and machines.

What are the treatments connected with

Some treatments do not need any special preparation, e.g. electromagnetic field of low frequency can be performed ? through clothing?. Other treatments like laser therapy or jonophoresis require uncovering the skin of treated areas. Some physical stimuli do not irritate sensory receptors placed all over your skin. Therefore, the treatments mentioned above do not result in any sensations.

Other stimuli such as electric current irritate the endings of sensory nerves and can be felt as tingling or pinching. Strong feelings of burning or pain are not correct and should be immediately signalled by patients.

After warming up treatments, it is advisable (especially on chilly days) to wait about fifteen minutes before going out, until the reaction to the treatment partly disappears.

Electrotherapy treatments may result in reaction in the form of a reddening in the place where the electrode touched the skin. This reaction is fully correct and disappears within twenty ? forty minutes, depending on patients? individual conditions.


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