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  • Writer's pictureMiracle Rehab Clinic

What Is Orthopedic Physical Therapy?

Updated: Apr 25, 2022

You may have seen orthopedic physical therapy and physical therapy services offered at your local clinic and wondered what the difference between the two was.

So what is orthopedic physical therapy? In short, orthopedics is a branch of medicine that focuses on the musculoskeletal system and injuries to ligaments, tendons, muscles, and bones. And orthopedic physical therapists have additional training and education.

The goal of it is, though, the same, to relieve pain and help the patient have better life quality by improving the function of the orthopedic (musculoskeletal) system— muscles, bones, joints, tendons, and ligaments.

Orthopedic physical therapists treat patients in outpatient rehabilitation centers, clinics, hospitals and perform home visits. Check here how one-on-one physical therapy can help your ailments.

Let's examine orthopedic physical therapy and how it can benefit you.

What Conditions Can Benefit From Orthopedic PT?


Orthopedic and sports physical therapy can be beneficial on many occasions and treat multiple conditions from falls, car accidents, and sports-related injuries to chronic injuries.

Sports injury treatment has the best outcomes when professional orthopedic and sports physical therapy are combined.

The treatment usually focuses on building strength, flexibility, and improving range of motion.

Rehabilitation After Acute Injury

An acute injury is when trauma happens to the body, such as a sprained ankle, herniated disk, etc.

In this case, an orthopedic PT can help manage pain, regain range of motion, rebuild strength, and educate how to live with the restrictions of the injury and avoid it in the future.

Rehabilitation After Chronic injury

Another type of injury is a chronic injury. Its damage to your body that occurs over time. Usually, it's caused by small, repetitive injuries to your tendons, bones, or joints.

Among these injuries are tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, etc. A therapist can help manage pain, swelling and educate how to manage it on your own.

Health Conditions

Orthopedic physical therapy and advanced orthopedic physical therapy are also often used to treat various health conditions. Here are some of the most common of them.

Knee conditions: ACL tear, meniscus tear, knee replacement, knee pain.

Foot conditions: ankle, foot sprains, Achilles tendon tears and injuries, heel pain.

Hip conditions: bursitis, pain, reduced mobility.

Shoulder conditions: clavicle fracture, frozen shoulder, rotator cuff tear. Learn more about relieving shoulder pain here.

Spine conditions: a herniated disc, lower back pain, scoliosis

Other: arthritis, Lyme disease, fractures, etc.

Reasons to See an Orthopedic Physical Therapist

You should consider seeking out an orthopedic physical therapist if you have any of the conditions mentioned above. However, it’s better before you understand the difference between physical therapist and physiotherapist.

Here's how can an orthopedic PT can help.

Manage pain. Therapeutic exercises and other treatment modalities can help reduce or eliminate pain. Physical therapy achieves this without the use of addictive medications and harmful injections.

Improve mobility. Orthopedic physical therapy can help with daily functions like walking, climbing stairs, or doing your favorite sports.

Strengthen muscles. Prolonged immobilization due to bone fractures, pain, or surgery can cause a rapid decrease in muscle strength. Orthopedic therapy can help build muscle strength and restore the ability to move.

Manage aging problems. An orthopedic physical therapist can help senior patients manage medical conditions and recover from surgery.

Avoid invasive therapy. If the orthopedic physical therapy is effective, the likelihood of you needing surgery is significantly reduced.

Prevent falls. Orthopedic physical therapy builds strength, improves balance, and helps prevent falls that lead to more injury.

Improve the quality of life. Taking care of your body with the help of an orthopedic therapist helps improve your quality of life. You can return to the tasks you were doing earlier and resume your accustomed lifestyle.

What to Expect at the Orthopedic Physical Therapist

It's always a little intimidating to start any treatment, and orthopedic physical therapy is no exception. What helps immensely is knowing what to expect of your sessions and treatment.

It's essential to check the therapist's credentials before starting the relationship, as only therapists who have completed orthopedic specialist programs can be considered experts in the field. Still, sometimes non-specialized physical therapists also practice elements of orthopedic physical therapy.

The first thing your therapist will do is a thorough examination. After that, they will create an individual treatment plan.

You can expect to do strength training and other exercises designed to challenge your body.

An orthopedic physical therapist might also use tools or instruments to help you heal, such as treadmills, ultrasounds, biofeedback, etc.

An orthopedic physical therapist will also likely prescribe exercises for you to do at home and teach you how to do them properly.

Here are some treatments you can expect during your visits:

Hot/cold therapy

Orthopedic PTs use cryotherapy (cold therapy) and thermotherapy (heat therapy) to treat musculoskeletal pain and swelling.


Your therapist will create an exercise plan that will likely include strengthening, mobility, and balance-building exercises.


Water therapy (in a pool or whirlpool) is effective in treatment, especially during exercise, as it supports your body and reduces the impact on joints.

E-stim (TENS or NMES)

Electrical stimulation is effective in pain management. During the treatment, the therapist attaches an e-stim device to the injured area of your body.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) uses a low voltage electrical current to provide pain relief.

Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) uses a device that sends electrical impulses to nerves that causes your muscles to contract and improves blood flow that helps heal your muscles.

Neuromuscular re-education

This treatment helps recover voluntary muscle control, which a patient might have lost due to atrophy, injury, or pathology.

Soft tissue manipulation

Your therapist will most likely use hands-on techniques on your muscles, ligaments, and fascia. This may help improve circulation, reduce swelling or buildup of fluid around the injury, relieve pain and stiffness, speed up healing of muscle strains and sprains, and restore range of motion.

Laser or light therapy

During your orthopedic treatment, your therapist may use low-level laser or light therapies to boost muscle performance, reduce muscle fatigue, and enable muscle repair after an injury.


At Miracle Physical Therapy, we can help you to get on the right track and start the journey to a pain-free life. You can call us to schedule a free no-obligation consultation with a therapist in person or over the phone.

If you feel ready to start some real advanced orthopedic rehabilitation, we can schedule your appointment in the next 24 hours.

Book your orthopedic physical therapy at Miracle Rehab Clinic today and start your treatment as soon as possible.

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