What are Modalities in Physical Therapy?

Sep 13, 2023
There are different types of modalities in physical therapy, and your therapist may recommend one or a combination of them to help relieve your pain and help you recover. Here are some of the most common types.

What are Modalities in Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy, as its name suggests, usually consists of physical movements and exercises that improve your physical health. Physical therapy can relieve pain, improve range of motion, strengthen muscles, and help you recover from injuries or surgery. 

But some physical therapy treatments involve other means besides physical movement. When an outside stimulus is applied to help with healing, these methods are referred to as modalities in physical therapy. 

There are different types of modalities in physical therapy, and your therapist may recommend one or a combination of them to help relieve your pain and help you recover. Here are some of the most common types. 

Modalities You Can Use at Home

  • Dry Heat. Applying heat to the affected area will increase the circulation, which can speed up healing. The reason is that blood contains platelets that promote healing throughout your body. As heat increases the blood flow to the area, the healing cells get there faster and in greater numbers. This is why your body’s natural response to injury is inflammation, causing the affected area to feel warm and the skin to redden. Warmth also loosens up tight muscles and tendons, allowing for greater range of motion and less pain. Heat can be applied through an electric heating pad, heated gel pack, or some other safe source of heat. 
  • Moist Heat. While dry heat helps, moist heat can sometimes be more effective. It works in the same way, increasing circulation to the area and relaxing the muscles and tendons. But moist heat penetrates deeper and works faster than dry heat, offering rapid and effective relief and healing. Moist heat can be applied through a moist heat pack, steam pack, or a hot water bottle. You could also spend time in a sauna or soak in a warm bath. 
  • Cold. Cold has the opposite effect of heat. When you apply cold to the area it decreases the flow of blood to the area by constricting the blood vessels. This helps to reduce swelling and inflammation that can cause pain. Cold is best applied as soon as possible following an injury to prevent swelling and reduce acute pain. It may also be applied following a physical therapy session. Where heat may be applied at the beginning, cold will usually be applied at the end. Cold can be applied by an ice pack, cold gel pack, or an ice water bath. 

Modalities That Require a Professional 

  • Electrical Stimulation. There are a few different types of electrical stimulation that can be used in conjunction with physical therapy. Some electrical stimulation is applied through electrodes attached to the surface of the skin. Electrical current at various frequencies can reach different nerves to relieve pain. Some electrical stimulators can be surgically implanted to release a continuous pulse that reduces or eliminates pain. 
  • Ultrasound. Similar to the technology that makes it possible to view parts of the body beneath the skin, ultrasound can also be used to promote healing. This therapy is applied by a transducer passed over the skin that transmits high frequency sound waves to target a specific area that needs healing. The sound waves produce heat that reaches deep into muscles and tendons to increase blood flow and accelerate the healing process. 
  • Redcord Suspension Therapy. Redcord Suspension Therapy was invented in Norway and provides a pain-free solution to strengthen muscles that might normally hurt too much to put pressure on. The suspension system creates weightlessness (like when you’re in the pool) and it enables a therapist to see where your muscle imbalances are so they can create a more personalized treatment plan.

Manhattan Physical Therapy Provides a Range of Treatments

Are you looking for a physical therapist in NYC who offers a wide range of treatment options? At Manhattan Physical Therapy, we believe that for best results it is important to apply a combination of treatments. We create an individualized plan just for you that will accelerate your recovery and best manage and eliminate your pain. Modalities in physical therapy should be offered as a regular part of treatment. 

Call (212) 213-2480 or contact us today to schedule a consultation. We look forward to being an active part of your rehabilitation.