Everything there is to know about physical therapy equipment
Physical therapy equipment includes a range of items that are used in the field of physical therapy and provides treatment to patients with different physical disorders and impairments. Various kinds of physical therapy equipment used include:
Basic physical therapy equipment: e.g., adjustable treatment table, wooden plinths, large mirror for visual feedback, adjustable exercise steps, Step stools, variety of wedges, supports, mobilization belts, orthotics / splinting materials.
Basic physical therapy modalities: e.g., hydrocollator with hot packs, small freezer with Ice packs, and vaso-pneumatic compression device. Also, tools like multiple mode electrical stimulators (EMS), Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), short wave diathermy, therapeutic ultrasound, traction unit, Iontophoresis unit, and paraffin bath.
Devices for special Tests: e.g., Goniometers, tape measures, grip dynamometer, manual muscle testing dynamometer, reflex hammer, video analysis hardware, and software.
Exercise equipment: e.g., adjustable height pulleys, dumbbells, cuff weights, resistive tubing, medicine balls, supine shuttle-style leg press machine, CPM devices, multi-purpose adjustable resistive machine, upright/recumbent bike
Balance tools: e.g., treadmill, parallel bars/wall bars, balance boards, foam rolls, gym ball, EMG biofeedback.
A large portion of this equipment helps and completes daily physiotherapy protocols necessary for a patient's rehabilitation. The equipment mentioned above is very crucial for the efficient and timely recovery of the patient. It may augment the healing process of wounds or impairments or help regain patients' balance and mobility. It is useful in both acute as well as chronic phase of the disease. Customarily, high-quality equipment is costly and sometimes very heavy on the pocket. But if you know the usage of physical therapy equipment in-depth, there will not be any problem in gaining maximum outcomes even from moderate-priced equipment. As it is essential to know which equipment is ideal for what physical condition, we will try to cover all the vital information about the physical therapy equipment which anyone should be aware of before buying or using them.
History of physical therapy equipment
As the number of items included in the physical therapy equipment is vast and we cannot address the complete history of each of them in this section, we will try to state the brief history of some famous physical therapy equipment.
Adjustable treatment table: In the earlier times, adjustable tables were known as couches or slabs. The term massage table became coined in the late 1920s. These were utilized in gymnasiums for hydrotherapy cleaning and massage treatment. Their modified versions were reportedly the examination tables used nowadays, and they had an adjustable structure that was useful for various purposes. In the 1930s, they created the first portable table without face holes. The plinth with face holes came in the 1940s. These tables were a new version with better quality and portability. In the present, their use is as examination tables, massage tables, physical therapy plinth, or other various means ergonomically designed for specific purposes.
TENS and EMS: In ancient times, people utilized electric fish, aka electric eel in the medical treatments, but they did not know about the reason behind its pain-relieving effect.
Scribonius Largus, a Roman doctor, was also a great advocate of this effect. In ancient Greek times, Hippocrates used the treatment for many people suffering from pain. Ben Franklin was also a supporter of this effect and discovered the fluid nature and its ability to penetrate the bodies later used for human benefit. C. Norman Shealy made the new TENS, which is now frequently used in current medical setups. He worked a lot on pain management of various conditions like migraine, back pain, and gout. He developed it during the 1970s. The model was handpicked by manufacturing companies and still in use with modifications.
Luigi Galvani was the first physician to prove that the current can activate the body muscles, which was then verified by other scientists, with more information about the phenomenon. Its practical demonstration occurred when in the 1960s, Soviet sports scientists claimed 40% power gains after applying EMS.
Therapeutic ultrasound: During World War II, there was the extensive use of ultrasound technology in navigating submarines. Later, there was the discovery that ultrasound waves are harmful to fishes. From this fact, it later became established that this effect could be useful for body tissue healing and heating. Since then, therapeutic ultrasound is used to heal and accelerate wound healing, tissue healing after injury, and more.
Exercise Ball: An Italian plastics manufacturer, Aquilino Cosani, made a ball in 1963, called "Pezzi ball." Its first use was for the treatment protocol of newborns and infants. Afterward, Klein-Vogelbach made use of those balls for neurological physical therapy. He also addressed their use in treating orthopedic disorders. These treatments are now useful in balance training, fitness programs, sports programs, yoga, pilates, and more.
Indications to use physical therapy equipment
The indications to use the most common physical therapy tools are as below:
Treatment tables: treatment tables are the most essential and necessary equipment present in physical therapy set up. All the examinations as well as treatment, e.g., rehab training, athletic training in many cases, massage, take place on it.
Therapeutic ultrasound: The indications for therapeutic ultrasound are
- Pain relief
- Muscle spasms
- Chronic/sub-chronic bursitis
- Ligamentous sprains
- Scar tissue healing
Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS): The evidence for its use are:
- Relieving muscle spasms in the case of impinged nerves or radiculopathy,
- Preventing muscle atrophy by producing muscular contractions. In conditions like Stroke, the patient cannot move the limbs, which can lead to atrophy of muscles. EMS can be helpful in these conditions, and
- e-educating the muscles in case of any surgery or injury prevents normal muscle usage.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): the indication for its use is in many types of pain. It can be useful for:
- Acute postoperative and post-traumatic pain,
- Chronic pain relief, e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, chronic lower back pain, and
- Painful diabetic neuropathy.
Exercise ball: The indications for using an exercise ball are:
- For balance problem
- For improving mobility
- For fibromyalgia
- For promoting or inhibiting muscle tone in neuromuscular conditions, e.g., Cerebral palsy (CP)
Hot pack: Hot pack is useful in increasing muscle extensibility and reducing spasm. It also increases blood circulation hence reducing pain to the specific area. The indications to use it are:
- Joint contractures
- Muscle spasms
- Chronic injuries to increase the blood flow
- Any muscular or joint chronic pain
Cold packs: Cold packs help the conditions:
- For controlling hemorrhages and inflammation
- For reducing body temperature and pain
- For preventing edema
- For increasing blood circulation
Biofeedback: Biofeedback is useful when combined with other therapeutic interventions. It acts to enhance the effect of other therapies. The following are the conditions in which to use it:
- Stress urinary incontinence
- migraine and tension-type headache;
- Chronic pain
- Post-traumatic stress syndrome
- Balance disorders
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Continuous passive motion (CPM): indication for its use is in the following clinical conditions:
- Knee replacement,
- After surgery to gain the normal range of movement
- Arthroscopic procedure
Generally, physical therapy equipment is very safe to use. However, some side effects may appear in case of improper handling or incompatibility with the device.
- The complications of using ultrasound arise when used in an area where the tumor is presently leading to an increase in tumor growth. If not correctly used over bony prominences, it can result in bone corrosion. Its application over body organs (e.g., heart, eyes, the brain) can cause serious life-threatening side effects.
- Some study reports that EMS can be dangerous if it is not applied correctly. It causes the release of some chemicals in the body that have the potential to damage the kidneys. Therefore, it is crucial to train persons working with it properly.
- TENS is a very safe device to work with, but in some cases, its electrode pads may cause an allergic skin reaction or burns on the application site.
- Hot packs may produce erythema on the skin or sometimes burns if applied without adequately covering the part. Some patients feel a generalized feeling of weakness and overheating after using it.
- Exercise balls are not harmful, but they may induce post-exertional fatigue or malaise.
- If CPM is applied in patients with unstable fractures, fever, unstable vital signs, or muscle rigidity, it can lead to a more unstable condition and bony fractures.
- Generally, biofeedback is not harmful, but some people may not find it compatible working with it.
Specifications of physical therapy equipment
There are several physiotherapy equipment designs available in the market, with different specifications; however, we are going to cite the general specs:
- Capable of regular use
- Filled with silica gel
- Availability in different sizes and shapes as per requirement
- Long life
- 1 MHz – 3 MHz frequency range
- Presets available
- Can be manually set
- The adequately wide applicator or transducer head to cover an area of application
- Made of soft material
- Ensures patient safety
- Sturdy material
- Less maintenance cost
- Provided with different modes
- Replaceable self-adhesive electrode leads and battery
- Flexible material
- Available in various sizes to adjust with different heights
- It can accommodate heavyweight.
- Provided with sensors to give feedback
- Graphical display showing patients progress
- Store data for further use
- Very sensitive and precise
Continuous Passive motion:
- Provides true anatomical motion
- Manual setting range of motion
- Ensures safety
- Recommend power to be set
Physiotherapy equipment with different designs and specs are available in the market, and we are providing you with the most preferred brands by its user. We have tried to come up with the best and reliable brands from which to purchase. The leading brands are Core products, Biofreeze professionals, Roscoe medical-compass health, Axelgaard.
- Core products: Their physical therapy products are easy to use and medically useful. Brand promise to bring comfort in your life through their capable equipment. They mostly supply braces, Ice packs, and hot and cold therapies.
- Compass Health: It is the largest manufacturer of physiotherapy products worldwide. Their product guarantees higher quality and value with colossal effectiveness.
The right physical therapy equipment is the core of physical therapy treatment that ensures a speedy recovery and augments standard physical therapies. To ensure that a patient gets the maximum benefit, practical outcomes, and positive experience while getting treatment, high-quality equipment with innovative structure is necessary. The right tool is the basic need of a physiotherapy setup. It makes a physical therapist more confident and reliable in his work and guarantees a healthy relationship with his patients.