Strength and conditioning exercises are an extremely critical component of physical therapy. In fact, any physical therapy program can be broken down into three basic parts: pain relief, stretching, and strength and conditioning.
Pain Relief: Pain relief is the essential first step, as it is nearly impossible to exercise with proper form when you are in intense pain. Ice, heat, electrical nerve stimulation, ultrasound therapy, and deep tissue massage are among the most common types of pain relief used by physical therapists.
Stretching: Regardless of exactly what is causing your pain, your muscles are always involved. This is because the body’s natural response to pain is to try to protect the affected area. The muscles contract around it, forming a protective but extremely painful barrier. Stretching exercises are designed to relieve these muscle contractions, loosening and lengthening the muscles and restoring flexibility.
Strength and Conditioning: At one time, strengthening and conditioning the muscles was largely left to fitness coaches and personal trainers, with physical therapists focusing on relieving the pain and expanding the range of motion. Today, though, many physical therapists are providing a complete rehab approach to injuries and illnesses that affect the muscles and joints, including strength and conditioning exercises.
Strength and conditioning exercises help the body unlearn bad habits and learn healthier ways of supporting its own weight and moving through space. Whether your issue is muscular, joint-based, or in the tendons and ligaments, strength and conditioning help reset the complex lever and pulley systems that make the body move. While stretching builds range of motion in individual areas of the body, strengthening and conditioning teaches the entire body to work as a whole, increasing what you are able to do and lowering your risk of future injuries.
Of course, your physical therapist will begin with a complete assessment and evaluation. Your treatment plan will be targeted to your current conditions and personal goals for treatment.