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How to Get the Most Out of Your Physical Therapy

May 22, 2017 by Kara Willingham

Physical therapy is a type of body treatment that many participate in after an injury, surgery or other physically limiting issue. The goal is to help you feel better, move easier and relieve recurrent pain in the body. Many choose to see a physical therapist to restore their physical functions and improve their fitness, and while most programs are custom and focused on the individual, we all have different needs and may require a unique program.  

There are many reasons to participate in physical therapy, working with a specialist can help to lessen or eliminate pain, improve mobility, help a patient avoid surgery, improve balance and more. Furthermore, as we age, we may develop arthritis, become stiff and immobile or need joint replacements.

Below we have listed common reasons to see a physical therapist as well as ways to make your therapy sessions even more effective.

Common Reasons to Visit a Physical Therapy Center

  • Lingering pain. After an injury, it’s important to take time off from physical activity. If you’ve iced and rested your injury for a few days without relief you may need to be seen.
  • Serious injuries that frequently flare up.
  • A serious or traumatic event, for example, a torn muscle or broken bone.
  • If anti-inflammatory medication doesn’t seem to help an injury at all, you may want to speak with a professional.
  • The pain you’re experiencing is acute and sharp it may be more serious than you think.
  • If you see obvious changes near an injured area that do not seem to be improving.

Incorporating Infrared Heat Can Improve Physical Therapy Results

An exploration into the influence infrared has on pain relief indicates that combining infrared sessions with PT can help recovery. The soothing infrared heat penetrates the body to create therapeutic benefits through increased blood flow and tissue oxygenation. The quick increase of blood flow and tissue oxygenation can help promote the energy generation that is needed for healing. A study by Matsushita in 2008 found that chronic pain patients experienced nearly a 70% reduction in pain levels after just one infrared session. You read that correctly, just one session and the pain that participants were experiencing decreased significantly and remained low throughout the observation period.  

“…a combination of physical therapy or physiotherapy and infrared therapy can improve the health of those with cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus and chronic kidney disease.”

Combining infrared therapy with physical therapy can be an excellent combo!

Aetna, the American health care company referenced a 2015 study on their website noting that a combination of physical therapy or physiotherapy and infrared therapy can improve the health of those with cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus and chronic kidney disease. The authors of the study determined that the use of far infrared therapy may be connected to the to the amplified expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase, a cellular signaling molecule that helps vascular tone, insulin secretion and is involved in neural development. The authors also noticed a possible increase in nitric oxide production, which plays a critical role in blood pressure and overall circulation. Nitric oxide also plays a part in immune system health, regulating blood pressure, reducing inflammation and more. This study indicates the effectiveness of infrared heat for conditions that one may seek physical therapy for.  A physical therapist may immerse the patient in infrared heat before or after their therapy session.

Dr. Aaron Flickstein, FIT Bodywrap’s Clinical Director has seen comparable results when using infrared body wrap treatments on his patients, “Pain relief with infrared happens due to increased blood flow and infrared acting directly on irritated nerve endings,” he says, “Many patients notice the effects after about 20-30 minutes of exposure and some feel relief for around 48 hours after the sessions.” How does infrared provide these results? “Infrared heat promotes the rebuilding of injured tissue by positively affecting the fibroblasts (connective tissue cells necessary for repair) and it increases the growth of cells, DNA and protein synthesis necessary during tissue repair and regeneration,” says Flickstein. “Infrared is also useful for reducing soreness in nerve endings and muscle spasms by heating the muscle fibers resulting in natural pain relief.”

The combination of infrared heat and physical therapy can help the patient recover sooner, relieve pain, reduce stiffness and achieve better results. Patients will be ready for more intense physical therapy after their joints and muscles have become relaxed from the gentle, therapeutic heating qualities of soothing infrared heat so they can feel better faster!

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