Physical Therapy Tools that Professionals Recommend

Physical Therapists train for years to become experts in movement. They study the interaction of muscle, nerve, and bone to help their patients restore functional mobility, reduce pain, and prevent disability. But there are wide variety of ways the human body can break down. And so physical therapists must also be expert at using a wide variety of physical therapy tools to get the job done.

Depending on a patient’s illness or injury, effective treatment may involve any combination of:

  • Exercises
  • Ultrasound
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Traction
  • Joint mobilization
  • Massage
  • Heat or ice
  • and other techniques

Specialized physical therapy equipment is available for each of these treatment modalities. Physical therapists are also adept at creating new physical therapy tools and adapting old ones to novel uses, depending on the unique needs of each patient.



What are the Major Tools for Physical Therapy?

  • Prescribed physical therapy exercise sometimes involves the entire body. But other times the exercises are focused on specific muscle groups or joints. Physical therapy tools designed for exercise are therefore widely varied, ranging from complex (treadmills, stationary bicycles) to very simple (resistance bands). Other exercise equipment commonly found in a physical therapists office includes things like stability balls, free weights, and steps.
  • An ultrasound wand can be used for tissue relaxation, increased local blood flow, and scar tissue breakdown.
  • Electrical stimulation with a TENS machine is used to decrease pain around injured tissue. Also, neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) stimulates muscles to prevent atrophy and improve muscle strength and control.
  • Traction devices can be used to separate joint and disc spaces in the back and neck. This can decrease pressure on spinal nerves. Machines for traction can be rather complicated, or they can be as simple as an anchored rope for stretching.
  • Physical therapists use joint mobilization to reduce pain and improve mobility in the joints. Often this involves manual, hands-on manipulation during an office visit. But physical therapy tools are available for this as well. A classic example is the shoulder pulley for increasing range of motion. With a portable device such as a shoulder pulley, a patient is able to self-mobilize and treat their condition in the comfort of their own home.
  • Physical therapy Massage tools consist mostly of a quality table, maybe some sheets or a blanket, and a good massage cream that both moisturizes and helps the massage therapist maintain an appropriate grip. For self-massage and stretching, something as simple as a foam roller can be helpful.

Other Physical Therapy Tools and Physical Therapy Equipment

Physical therapists face a wide array of challenges when it comes to treating their patients. Don’t be surprised if your physical therapist recommends heat packs or ice packs, kinesiology tape, or even a dip in a whirlpool. These are all legitimate tools of physical therapy.

But remember, every condition is unique, and no two patients respond to treatment in exactly the same way. So a physical therapist must be ready to adapt and sometimes improvise with all the tools available — sometimes even inventing new tools when nothing else is quite right for the job.