Physiotherapy Treatments
What Can They Do For You?

As well as exercises, therapists can use a range of other physiotherapy treatments.

It's good to know a little about each treatment before you have it done, so you can feel comfortable the whole time. I'll go through the following physiotherapy treatments:

  • Massage
  • Joint Manipulation And Taping
  • Heat Therapy And Cryotherapy
  • Electrotherapy (including Ultrasound)
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Acupuncture

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    Anybody can "massage" anybody else. But massage done by a physiotherapist is based on science. It is very specific to the needs of the patient, i.e. you!

    The benefits of different types of massage are seen in 3 body systems:


  • mobilisation of soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments)
  • stretching and mobilisation of scar tissue
  • removing dead skin cells
  • helping lymphatic drainage (the system of tubes or vessels in your body that helps drain fluid back to the blood and helps fight infection).


  • circulatory - increased blow flow, stimulation of the healing process
  • neurological - can be either relaxing or stimulating.


  • pain and stress relief
  • preparation for physical activity.

    There are different types of massage, each designed to get the specific benefits above. The 4 main types of massage are:

  • Stroking - this is a gliding movement performed in any direction. Soothing stroking has slow, rhythmical movements designed to have a sedative affect. Stimulating stroking has brisk, invigorating strokes in any one direction designed to simulate.

  • Effleurage - this is a rhythmical, superficial or deep gliding movement in the direction of flow of veins and lymphatics. This helps to reduce swelling following injury, stretch scar tissue, relax muscles, and is used as a connecting massage stroke.

  • Petrissage - this is used to help reduce swelling following injury, mobilise scar tissue, reduce muscle spasm and help circulation. There are 4 types of these pressure techniques:
    Kneading - muscles and superficial tissues are compressed, squeezed and relaxed. The hands move rhythmically in a circular way.
    Picking up - muscles are lifted and squeezed in one or two hands.
    Wringing - lifting, squeezing and wringing of muscles.
    Skin rolling - two hands are used to hold and roll skin between fingers.

  • Frictions - this a cross (transverse) movement over the affected area (ligaments, tendons and muscles). This helps in the healing process or is used to break down scar tissue. Deep friction massage therapy is a more vigorous form of this.

    Joint Manipulation And Taping

    Physiotherapists are trained to perform movements on you, where the therapist moves the limb/joint whilst you keep your muscles relaxed.

    Mobilisation and manipulation techniques are commonly used when you have pain and stiffness around a joint or muscle. Rest assured that the therapist is within the control of yourself so that the movement can be stopped if you so wish.

    Mobilisation is where the therapist uses smooth movements of 2 or 3 seconds of small or large force anywhere within the range of movement of the joint.

    Manipulation is the next step from mobilisation, where the therapist applies a thrust of small force on the joint at the end of its range of movement.

    Therapists have a grading system for identifying the level of stiffness and pain, and then using that, they devise your treatment. Pain and stiffness have specific relationships with each other, and physios are experts in treating these. If you hear any clicks or pops then don't be worried as these are natural and safe, as long as the treatment is done by a fully qualified professional.

    Taping is a technique used by physios and sports professionals. Special tape is used, taping around muscles and joints for support. In cases after injury, you can use taping to restrict the movement of a joint to protect it from further injury.

    Heat Therapy And Cryotherapy

    These physiotherapy treatments are quite straight forward, used for muscle injuries. Your therapist will still take all precautions necessary, as there are certain conditions where these treatments may not be suitable for you.

    Heat therapy consists of a hot pack or heat bath. Cryotherapy consists of an ice pack or ice bath. They are usually applied for up to 20 minutes, where you would have to remain still. Your therapist will remain with you throughout the treatment and will monitor the temperature of your affected muscle.

    The danger of both these sets of treatments is burning due to extreme heat or cold. Your feedback along with the therapists own observations should ensure this doesn't happen.

    Electrotherapy (including Ultrasound)

    There are different types of electrotherapy, varying by using heat, sound waves or electrical stimulation. These are good for treating pain in muscles and joints, swelling, and to help the healing process. The different types of these physiotherapy treatments are:

  • Infrared.. an infrared lamp is placed parallel to your joint, with your skin uncovered and examined prior to treatment. Heat from the infrared rays warms your specific muscles. You may feel a mild gentle warmth, anything hotter then this feeling should be reported.

  • Ultrasound.. for parts of your body that are relatively flat, the gel is applied on to your skin, and the applicator is moved over the surface of your skin. For parts that have irregular surfaces, it is placed in a bath of warm water. The head of the applicator is placed in the bath and moved around next to the part to be treated. You should feel no sensation at all either way.

  • TENS.. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is normally used to treat pain. The electrodes are placed on your skin and the intensity gradually increased. Depending on the frequency, you should either feel a slow tickling sensation, or a continuous buzzing sensation. You will be able to feel which frequency is best for your pain. The intensity should never be strong or painful.


    This is done in a hydrotherapy pool with water temperatures of 33-38 degrees Celsius. There are so many advantages of physiotherapy treatments in water, the main one being the feeling of weightlessness. This is called buoyancy and it provides support for activities not possible on land.

    Even without any equipment at all, working against buoyancy will help with strengthening, and working with buoyancy will help with mobilising. Adding floats can provide further resistance or support, depending on your needs.

    Some other benefits of hydrotherapy include:

  • Pain relief - the warmth has a sedative effect on your nerve endings on your skin, and can help to relax muscle spasm.

  • Increases confidence - the weightlessness gives you a feeling of safety, takes the pressure off your body especially your spine, if you have severe movement problems then you could achieve more movement in water.

  • It's fun!

    Hydrotherapy from a physiotherapist's view, is more commonly used if you have arthritis, cerebral palsy with learning difficulties, chronic lower back pain and spinal cord injuries. It can also be used for many other things, such as stress related problems, ultimately it's up to your therapist to decide your best course of treatment.


    This is not strictly a part of the main physiotherapy treatments, but many physios have trained to practice it. It is basically known as "sticking needles into you". Well I'm sure there are a few people you'd like to do that to!! But acupuncture is a very old Chinese therapy, based on energy flow within your body.

    Your therapist will insert a very thin needle (so thin that it won't break your skin i.e. no blood, so it's nothing like getting an injection) into very specific parts of your body. The needle will free any block of energy flow in that part of your body, helping it get back to it's normal state, e.g. pain free.

    You will usually need a course of acupuncture treatment, although some people see results after the first treatment. Acupuncture is a great treatment to try, if your other physiotherapy treatments have not helped you much.

    Even if you have a fear of needles, I would recommend you go with a friend or relative for support, and get that first treatment done. You'll see how it doesn't hurt and the needles are so thin, once they're in, you hardly notice them at all!

    Avoid Injury SideNote

    All these physiotherapy treatments are designed to be carried out by qualified professionals. There are very specific contraindications (a factor that increases the risk of using that treatment) for each treatment. A qualified professional will know all of these and therefore minimise your risk by creating the best course of treatment designed specifically for you.

    The physiotherapy treatments on this page, like everything on this website, are for informational purposes only. Please see your therapist if you are in any doubt or need further information about these physiotherapy treatments.

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