Rehabilitation Redefined: Understanding the Role of Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy New Jersey is a health care profession that helps people with many types of medical conditions. Licensed physical therapists (known as PTs) are educated at a graduate level in order to treat patients.

Physical Therapy

During the first appointment, a patient will undergo a subjective evaluation. Afterwards, the PT will explain their final diagnosis and the treatment plan they’ve put together.

Using exercises to improve strength, balance and movement patterns makes up a large portion of physical therapy. Generally, your physical therapist will teach you how to perform these movements during sessions, but they may also ask you to do them at home. This can help maintain progress made in the clinic and prevent a regression or further injury.

The type of exercise used during physical therapy depends on the condition or injuries that are being treated. For example, the treatment plan for someone with a spinal cord injury or a stroke might include a combination of exercises to manage tone, promote motion patterns and increase strength. In contrast, a patient with a knee injury would likely receive exercises to help with range of motion and stability.

Exercises that involve muscle contraction are generally known as strengthening exercises. Your physical therapist will prescribe specific strengthening exercises for you that are appropriate to your injury or condition. They will often include core strength exercises, which are designed to strengthen muscles that stabilize your body’s center of gravity and support posture and balance.

In addition to strengthening, your therapist will also use other treatments to help manage pain and inflammation. These are called therapeutic modalities and may include heat or cold applications, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and compression therapy. They can be used by themselves or in conjunction with other treatments to achieve the best results.

During the first few sessions, your physical therapist will take a thorough history of your current condition and any past medical problems you have had. Then, they will perform a comprehensive examination to identify the cause of your condition and the impairments that are keeping you from moving or functioning normally.

Your therapist will also determine your goals and come up with a plan to help you reach them. Your therapist will consider your needs and preferences when creating this plan, which may include preparing you to resume everyday activities like walking (ambulation) or working with an orthotic device such as a brace. They may also recommend other types of therapies that can help you recover and stay healthy, including massage therapy, nutritional counseling, or stress reduction techniques.


Flexibility refers to the ability of muscles and joints to move through their full range of motion without pain. This ability is determined by the mobility of soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons, joint capsules, and skin) surrounding the joint and their capacity to stretch without restriction. Flexibility is also influenced by the stability of the bones that articulate with one another, such as the articular cartilage in joints.

Physical therapists assess flexibility with tests that measure the degree of movement of a joint and compare it to accepted normal values. Typically, PTs use instruments called goniometers that are used to determine the angle of a joint as it moves through its range of motion.

A physical therapist can teach patients to improve their own flexibility through exercises and stretching techniques. They can also use therapeutic modalities, which are tools or methods that provide the body with energy to help it heal and restore flexibility. For example, a physical therapist might use ultrasound to transmit high- or low-frequency sound waves to muscles and surrounding tissue that promotes relaxation and increases blood flow to the area.

In addition to educating patients on how to improve their own flexibility, physical therapists can also treat patients with specific stretching and strengthening techniques to alleviate pain and discomfort caused by injury or surgery. Often, patients are referred to physical therapy by their doctors and receive treatment sessions on an outpatient basis or with the help of a home exercise program.

Having good mobility and flexibility can reduce the risk of many health issues, especially as you age. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are two of the most important factors for maintaining flexibility and range of motion.

Physical therapists can also help improve the range of motion and flexibility of athletes by identifying and addressing injuries that occur during training or competition. They can then work to develop a plan to prevent future injury and help the athlete return to their previous level of performance. Depending on the severity of the injury, athletes may be asked to rest or avoid strenuous activity until they have been cleared by a physical therapist.

Range of Motion

Range of motion (ROM) refers to the arc that a joint moves from its anatomical position to its maximum capacity. This movement is typically controlled by muscles and ligaments, and the ability to move in this range is important for normal function and injury prevention.

A physical therapist will work to increase a client’s ROM, particularly in joints such as the knee, hip, or shoulder that often have limited ROM after injuries. The physical therapist will use stretching exercises, muscle contractions, and other interventions to help improve the client’s ROM to its pre-injury baseline.

Increasing and maintaining good ROM is essential for everyday tasks like reaching, bending, and rotating the body. If you have a weak or injured back, tight muscles can restrict your shoulder rotation or your elbow extension. A physical therapist will perform a series of tests called range of motion measurements to determine if your muscles are too tight or your joint is too stiff, and will recommend different types of exercises to prevent further damage and improve the strength and flexibility of your joints and muscles.

The PT will use a tool called a goniometer to measure the arc of your joint’s movement in several directions. While this measurement may cause some discomfort, it is usually not painful for clients. The PT will then recommend passive, active assistive, or active-passive range of motion exercises to help you recover and improve your ROM.

With passive range of motion (PROM), the therapist moves the recovering joint using an outside force, such as a machine or a continuous passive motion (CPM) device. PTs commonly use PROM in the early stages of recovery from surgery or injury to prevent contractures, pressure sores, and spasticity in patients who are unable to move their joints or limbs independently.

With active range of motion (AROM), you move the joint by contracting and relaxing the muscles around the joint. The therapist can provide assistance with this type of exercise, but you will be responsible for moving the joint through its ROM. This is the most common type of exercise in physical therapy, and it is used for a variety of strengthening, stretching, and mobility exercises.

Pain Management

Pain management is a specialty area in physical therapy, often focused on decreasing chronic or acute pain. While some patients seek out pain medications, many others choose to use a combination of methods, including nonpharmacologic approaches like physical therapy.

In addition to exercises, PT may include modalities such as heat or cold and treatments based on physical stimuli like electrical currents or ultrasound. These treatments work to relieve pain, improve movement or strengthen weakened muscles. The goal is to improve overall functioning and help patients take control of their pain by learning techniques they can perform at home, so they can continue to feel better over the long term.

During an initial evaluation, a physical therapist will take a detailed history of your symptoms and ask you to fill out forms on how the pain or injury affects your everyday life. The therapist will then perform tests and movements to see where the problem lies, checking for tight muscles or stiff joints. Some therapists also have you perform tasks such as climbing stairs to see how your body performs in different situations.

Acute pain typically has a known cause, such as an accident or surgery. Chronic pain is more complicated and can have a number of causes, from disease or inflammation to medications or even an unknown reason. Often, people who suffer from chronic pain are prescribed powerful opioids, which can have dangerous side effects. In some cases, a physical therapist will be part of an interdisciplinary team to manage the transition off of opioids by helping with pain management strategies.

A physical therapist may be able to help with a range of issues, from muscle injuries to pain associated with arthritis or migraines. Those who specialize in women’s health can address specific concerns such as pelvic pain or osteoporosis. Other therapists focus on sports medicine, alleviating and healing injuries that occur while playing or practicing a sport. For example, a therapist can treat shoulder injuries, such as dislocations or tears of the rotator cuff. In general, a therapist will help you reduce pain and increase your mobility so you can enjoy your favorite activities again as soon as possible.