Sports-related injuries benefit from physical therapy, as do many other types of injuries and musculoskeletal problems. You can amp up the benefits of physical therapy with massage therapy, thus helping your body to heal faster.

What physical therapy does

Physical therapy is often prescribed by orthopedic physicians for many different types of conditions. Physical therapists are degreed professionals who examine the patients referred to them and develop a comprehensive treatment program for helping their patients to heal. The program for each patient is individualized to the patient’s needs, and is designed to stimulate movement, alleviate pain, alter disability, and/or restore function to affected areas of the body.

The physical therapist will perform ongoing functional examinations throughout the physical therapy program that test your strength, endurance, the functioning of your muscles, your balance, range of motion, coordination and the flexibility of your joints. The results of these examinations are used to modify your physical therapy program to help you achieve optimal physical functioning.

Your physical therapy program may include ultrasound, electrotherapy, dry needling (similar to acupuncture), manual therapy in which the therapist works various muscle groups, exercise, traction, and the enhanced development of motor skills. The physical therapist may also employ vestibular rehabilitation, which improves balance and dizziness issues.

Types of physical therapy

According to Laura Inverarity, DO, although there are 18 recognized types of physical therapy, the main types of which are:

  1. Orthopedic physical therapy, which treats sports injuries, fractures, sprains, post-operative mobility issues, tendonitis, and arthritis.
  1. Geriatric physical therapy, which deals with some of the issues of aging such as osteoporosis, cancer, joint and hip replacements, and incontinence.
  1. Neurological physical therapy, in which the following issues are addressed: Alzheimer’s, impaired vision, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, paralysis, Parkinson’s disease, and balance issues.
  1. Cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation therapy, which treats cardiopulmonary disorders, pulmonary and cardiac surgical patients, as well as persons recovering from heart attacks.
  1. Pediatric physical therapy in which children are assisted with developmental delays. Pediatric physical therapy also treats children with spina bifida, torticollis, cerebral palsy and other physical impairments that affect infants and children.

How massage therapy can help extend the benefits of physical therapy

According to a 2012 study done by Crane, et al. reported in Science Translational Medicine, massage therapy is an invaluable aid to physical therapy. The researchers, led by Crane, examined muscle tissue samples from subjects who had been subjected to exercise-induced muscle damage, half of whom had been given massage therapy afterward.

What they found was that the subjects who had been given massage therapy after exercise had a 30 percent increase in a gene that assists the muscles with repairing muscular damage and a decrease in a protein complex that increases inflammation. The researchers concluded that when massage therapy was received after exercise, massage therapy reduced inflammation and enhanced mitochondrial biogenesis.

With the exercise programs administered by physical therapy, according to these findings, massage therapy can dramatically enhance healing and reduce inflammation. Whether you are dealing with sports injuries or other physical therapy issues, be sure to add massage therapy to your recovery program. Not only does it release endorphins (natural pain killers) in the body and help with healing, it also reduces the stress that ongoing pain can cause.