Orthopedic Physical Therapy Overview

Anyone who has ever over-stressed or injured their body knows how debilitating it can be. Often these injuries can lead to surgery, other times seeing a physical therapist can be a better fix for the problem. Your doctor will recommend the best course of action for your individual needs and if it is recommended that you visit an orthopedic physical therapist then your outlook for recovery is excellent.

Orthopedic Physical Therapy Overview


Orthopedic Physical Therapy is physical therapy that focuses on restoring function to areas of the musculoskeletal system that may have been damaged by some type of injury. The physical therapists that work in this field are highly trained orthopedic specialists who can evaluate, treat, and manage the patient throughout the recovery process.

The Musculoskeletal System

The musculoskeletal system of the body includes muscles, bones, joints, tendons, and ligaments. Often the patient is experiencing pain and a may have a lessened ability to move a muscle or joint. The goal of the physical therapist is to focus on bringing the body’s orthopedic system back to optimal performance levels.

Conditions that can be treated with orthopedic physical therapy are:

  • Sprains and strains of muscles and joints.
  • Joint stiffness and pain.
  • Ligament and muscle tears.
  • Tendinitis and osteoarthritis.
  • Inflammations of tendons, joints, and muscles.
  • Neck and low back pain.
  • Plantar fasciitis.
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
  • Golf and tennis elbow.
  • Shoulder and rotator cuff injuries.
  • Herniated and degenerative disc disease.
  • Scoliosis and spinal stenosis.
  • Post-operative rehabilitation from ACL repairs and arthroscopic surgery.
  • Total joint replacements and other orthopedic surgery.

What types of exercises or tools do orthopedic therapist use?

  • Evaluation and Assessment: At the initial meeting the therapist will do a complete evaluation of the patients condition, observe physical movements, posture, range of motion, balance, strength, and level of pain. Then the therapist will develop an individualized plan for the best path forward.
  • Therapeutic Modalities: The orthopedic physical therapist can use a variety of therapies such as the applications of ice and heat; laser and mild electrical stimulation to muscles; and ultrasound. These types of therapies are used to relax muscles, increase blood flow, reduce swelling, increase flexibility and decrease pain level.
  • Massage: The therapist will help promote increased mobility by getting muscles and joints to relax. They will use hands on massage of muscles to promote blood flow and to reduce muscles stiffness.
  • Exercise: Exercise is a key component in orthopedic physical therapy. The therapist will give the patients a program of exercises to do at home. They know that for the best results and fasted improvement the patient’s activity level is critical. The therapist knows that this can be the hardest part of the therapy for the patient to accomplish. That is why the therapist will offer their expert guidance to make the exercise routine more enjoyable. The exercises are designed to help improve:
    • Range of motion.
    • Flexibility.
    • Strength.
    • Balance.
    • Mobility.
    • Endurance.


The goal of therapy is to restore a person’s strength, flexibility, and mobility so that they will be able to resume their normal activities. Increased mobility allows for greater ability to exercise. Greater ability to exercise helps to relieve stress and it helps to lessen recovery time.

  • Specific ways orthopedic physical therapy helps:
    • Stiff and tight muscles limit the ability to reach overhead, climb stairs, and performing everyday tasks. Stretching tight muscles and joints helps to improve range of motion for increased flexibility.
    • Strengthening exercises are done to improve the way the muscles function. This helps to increase endurance and strength.
    • Core muscle strengthening and stabilizing is critical as the core muscles are the base that support all others. The emphasis for strengthening core muscles is on the back, abdomen, and pelvis.
    • Heating and cooling the muscles help to stimulate blood flow and reduce swelling. Ice is commonly used to reduces pain, swelling, and inflammation for an acute injury. Heat helps to relax the muscle tissues and it stimulates blood flow to muscles or joints.
    • Ultrasound is used to stimulate deep tissues through the application of high frequency sound waves. When the ultrasound probe passes over the tissues the sound wave vibration increases blood flow and warms the tissue.
    • Electrical stimulation can diminish pain in the affected area. The electric current that passes through alters the nerve conduction which then alters muscle contractibility.


The reason to go to any type of physical therapy is to reach your recovery goals. Each patient will have a different set of goals that is why professional Orthopedic Physical Therapists evaluate and assess every patient individually. After the evaluation the therapist will chart a course for treatment. Generally, each patient should stay in therapy for as long as it takes to get better. Having said that, the typical course of action is about six to eight weeks. A lot depends on the severity of the problem as well as how long the doctor feels is necessary.

What is the Success Rate for Orthopedic Physical Therapy?

All Physical therapy professionals are dedicated to helping patients improve mobility, reduce pain, and get back living their normal life. The success rate of having physical therapy is excellent when the patient and the therapist work hard together to achieve all the goals. Often if the patient seeks out physical therapy first, they will be able to avoid surgery and the use of long-term prescription pain medicines.

Seeking physical therapy as a first step has proven to be very cost effective as well. According to a recent study; “Patients who opted to use physical therapy as an initial course of treatment saw 73 percent fewer costs within the first years.” An added benefit of physical therapy according to the American Physical Therapy Association is, “Physical therapists teach patients how to prevent [additional injuries] and to manage their current condition to achieve long-term benefits.”

Getting started with orthopedic physical therapy?

For the best in orthopedic physical therapy tell your doctor that you want a referral to the Edge Physical Therapy. “At Edge Physical Therapy we offer the best experience in physical therapy with genuine, compassionate care, and treatment guided by advanced clinical knowledge & skill.”  Call or stop by to see our state-of-the-art Outpatient Rehabilitation Center.