Definition and Overview

Mobility therapy is a branch of physical therapy that aims to restore a patient’s mobility after injury or illness. Restoring mobility does not only restore the function of the patient’s joints or limbs, but also improve the general quality of life. Like in other types of physical therapy, mobility therapy involves the use of mechanical force and movements to rehabilitate the affected body part to regain its strength.

Mobility therapy should be performed by a qualified medical professional, such as a physical therapist or a physiotherapist. The techniques used in this therapy is not for amateurs, since muscles, bones, organs, and even blood vessels are delicate, and improper use of techniques can result in further injury.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

People of all ages can undergo mobility therapy, especially if injury, illness, or a recent surgical procedure has resulted in limited range of movement in any part of the body. Ideal candidates for mobility therapy include:

  • Patients with orthopaedic issues. Various issues of the musculoskeletal system can be significantly improved by mobility therapy. Patients who have undergone orthopaedic surgery can also benefit from this type of physical therapy.
  • Athletes, who are prone to physical injuries
  • Children with balance and motor skills issues
  • Multiple sclerosis patients, who might be suffering from symptoms such as weakness in the limbs, fatigue, or having issues with balance and movement.

In some cases, mobility therapy can be recommended to patients instead of surgery and other invasive forms of treatment.

Other candidates for mobility therapy are those who are suffering from the following conditions or symptoms:

  • Neck and back pain, especially since these areas contain the spine, which can greatly affect a person’s mobility
  • Brain injuries, which can cause impairment in motor skills and mobility
  • Concussion, which is a mild form of brain injury and caused by sudden impact to the head. This is a common brain injury in contact sports, but can also happen in other instances when the brain is shaken inside the skull.
  • Difficulty in walking, which can be caused by injury, disease, or congenital conditions
  • Dizziness and headaches, which can affect a person’s ability to move around unassisted
  • Neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Tendonitis
  • Sprains or strains in major joints, such as the ankles, wrists, neck, etc.

Patients who have recently undergone a joint replacement surgery can also undergo mobility therapy to improve the way they use the affected joint.

How is the Procedure Performed?

The physical therapist often works with a physician to develop a treatment plan that would address the patient’s individual condition. Some of the methods physical therapists use for mobility therapy include:

  • Joint manipulation or mobilization - This is a procedure performed by a qualified physiotherapist or a chiropractor. This typically involves massages and exercises that mobilize the joints and the use of therapy equipment that will produce the same effect. In most forms of joint manipulation, the joints produce an audible popping or clicking sound as they release gas bubbles.

  • Therapeutic exercises - Often performed under the supervision of a physical therapist, these can be stand-alone physical exercises involving movements that stimulate the joints, tissues, and muscles. These exercises can also be performed with the help of exercise equipment.

  • Muscle re-education – This involves exercises that can speed up the recovery period after a major surgery or traumatic injury. These exercises can also help patients improve pain control and stimulate muscles to promote mobility.

  • Application of cold or hot packs on the joints, tissues, or muscles. This type of treatment or pain management is often only recommended for patients who have suffered minor injury or inflammation of muscles and tissues.

  • Dry needling - A procedure similar to acupuncture, this uses filiform or hypodermic needles to treat muscle pain. These needles are inserted into pre-determined points in the body, known as trigger points. Unlike other forms of needle techniques, dry needling does not require the use of Botox, corticosteroids, or saline solution to relieve pain in the muscles or tissues.

  • Neuromuscular techniques – This involves manual massaging techniques applied to trigger points, often soft tissues. By addressing issues such as poor posture, ischemia, nerve compression, and biomechanical dysfunctions, these techniques can improve the patient’s mobility without the need for medication or surgery.

  • Electrical muscle stimulation procedures such as electrotherapy, cryotherapy, and iontophoresis, elicit contractions by sending electric impulses to the muscles.

Possible Risks and Complications

When performed by a qualified and professionally trained physical therapist, mobility therapy is generally safe and does not have any serious risks to the patient.

References:

  • American Physical Therapy Association: “Discovering Physical Therapy”
  • National Multiple Sclerosis Society
  • DeLisa’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: “Sports Medicine”
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