When it comes to injury rehabilitation and performance enhancement, physical therapy is often the best option for healing and improving your body naturally. Whether you’re brand new to physical therapy or you’ve had limited experience in the past, you might be curious what sort of equipment and tools are used throughout your healing and strengthening process.
Just like you wouldn’t want to join a bare-bones gym with ancient equipment that is shabby or worn, a good physical therapy clinic should offer state-of-the-art tools that offer patients the best in rehabilitation and injury-prevention to keep you strong, healthy and pain-free. Second only to finding a quality physical therapist with a strong manual therapy and clinical background, adequate fitness and rehabilitation equipment can affect the duration and quality of your recovery process.
From the physical therapy clinic’s point of view, equipment selection is a careful decision-making process, one that must factor-in budget as well as the different stages of rehabilitation and performance enhancement. Sure, there are essentials that every physical therapy clinic should have—treatment tables, treadmills and even smaller tools like exercise balls—but a clinic has to work within their budget to acquire equipment that is both versatile and space-conscious. At Therapydia, we pride ourselves on utilizing the latest technology to provide our patients with the best tools for their condition. Here are just a few of the equipment pieces we utilize in our clinics:
1. Treatment Tables
Every physical therapy clinic needs them, we like ours to be sturdy and comfortable enough for our patients to feel relaxed as we perform hands-on, manual therapy techniques. It’s important for us to consider how effectively we can manipulate the body on the table and to ensure that we’re able to find the precise positioning necessary to treat injuries and provide pain-relief.
2. Exercise Balls
Great for stretching, exercise balls allow for the rehabilitation of specific areas of the body and can be used to demonstrate exercises that the patient can also do at home (as many of our patients have an exercise ball hanging around somewhere). Similar to some of the other equipment and tools we use in physical therapy treatments, exercise balls are multi-functional, offering a range of difficulty levels depending on the stretch or exercise and the patient’s particular condition.
3. Resistance Bands
Inexpensive, portable and extremely versatile. Physical therapists use resistance bands to treat injuries in combination with other methods because of their adaptability in targeting a variety of major muscle groups. These small, thick rubber band-like tools allow you to continually progress your exercises by upping the ante and adding more resistance, further challenging your muscles without the added nuisance of additional weights.
An essential tool to getting the blood flowing, our physical therapists also utilize the treadmill to gauge a patient’s range of motion, gait and posture. Our individualized Run Analysis involves a thorough exam of strength, flexibility and movement patterns to help shape custom exercise training plans for all patients (from seasoned runners to newbies).
5. Exercise Bikes
Stationary bikes are great, low-impact fitness tools that help our physical therapy patients build strength and keep healthy. Riding an exercise bike also helps with flexibility and can help reduce pain symptoms, allowing many of our patients to keep active throughout the healing process.
Another one of the most versatile pieces of equipment that we have, is the TRX. Used for suspension training (all bodyweight training), it’s incredibly safe for all phases of rehabilitation and appropriate for people of any age group. The TRX allows you to make things really simple or really challenging, depending on your personal condition and needs. You can target your upper body—great for those with shoulder issues who need to focus on shoulder blade strengthening—or lower body—someone with knee pain for example will be able to do a lot of assisted types of squats and can use the TRX as a helpful tool to progress from two legs to one. It’s also great for core work. What else is great? It’s portable and really quite simple: This amazing physical therapy tool isn’t much more than a couple of ropes.
7. Pilates Reformer
In addition to being used for Pilates workouts, the reformer is something that is used frequently in many of our physical therapy clinics. For one thing, it’s low-impact and therefore very easy to adjust the intensity to match a patient’s condition (it has the ability to go from 25 to 75 pounds of resistance). You can perform upper body, lower body and core work. This can be highly effective in helping patients get the leg strength they need to squat. For those who can’t stand up to do a squat without pain, the reformer comes in handy to help them do a sort-of modified leg press. It’s a super effective tool used to progress patients to more functional, weight-bearing exercises.
8. InBody Body Composition Analyzer
If a physical therapy patient has goals of weight loss or strength training, the InBody machine is great for them. This machine can provide some really important data to help you structure your nutrition and training regime. The InBody Body Composition Analyzer provides your basal metabolic rate (the number of calories that you burn at rest) which is important to know before you work out. This will help you know how much you need to eat in relation to how much you need to burn. Rehab-wise, the limb segmental breakdown (right arm vs. left arm, right leg vs. left leg) is extremely helpful. If you have an injured leg, especially if it’s chronic, then there’s likely going to be some changes there in terms of your muscle mass. The InBody provides objective data that you can use to measure over time to make sure that we’re focusing on the right elements during your rehab and making things challenging enough to gain back muscle.
Even cooler, this is all done through electrical current (there are two sensors in each hand and two sensors in each foot). As you stand on what feels like a normal scale, the current goes through your body to determine what’s muscle, what’s fat and what’s bone. Unlike hydrostatic body fat testing, which requires you to get into a bathing suit, the InBody only requires you to take off your shoes and socks. You can gain insight into what you’re really made of in just a couple of minutes!
9. Keiser Functional Trainer
The Keiser Functional Trainer uses pneumatic resistance, which requires muscles remain active throughout the entire movement with minimal shock to the joints. Unlike standard cable machines, the Keiser Functional Trainer allows testing and training for power output. When you do a repetition on the Keiser, it gives you a reading in Watts that indicates the rate at which your work was done (essentially the speed of your movements). This can be very valuable in physical therapy treatment, especially for athletes who perform a lot of rotational movements such as golf and softball/baseball.
With the Keiser, your physical therapist can measure power one side at a time, making it a great tool for injury prevention. We all know the importance of symmetry; well, this technology allows us to test rotation to the right/left and locate deficits on either side, giving you the information you need to know what to train for. It’s also effective for the lower body. If you’re a basketball player and you want to be able to jump off of both legs, we can test each of your legs one at a time to find out if they produce the same amount of power. We use the Keiser in all phases of rehabilitation. For those who are still in pain, the Keiser allows for super light resistance. For those who are in the “return to sport” phase, we can receive objective numbers in order to clear you back to your sport.