Health Essentials: The Best 5 Types of Physical Therapy You Need to Know

Physical Therapy

Last Updated on May 24, 2024 by Daniele Lima

Discover the importance of each modality

  Physiotherapy plays an important role in promoting health and well-being, acting in the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of various diseases. This science combines anatomical, physiological, and biomechanical knowledge in a patient-centered approach to restore function and improve quality of life. 

  In this article, we explore five types of physical therapy important for health, highlighting the importance of each form and how it can make a difference in patients’ lives. You will understand how respiratory, neurological, orthopedic, geriatric, and sports physiotherapy complement each other and promote comprehensive and effective care. Get ready to explore how these practices can be important for maintaining and restoring health at different stages of life.

What are the 5 types of physical therapy?

1. Respiratory Physiotherapy

  Respiratory physiotherapy is essential to improve lung function and respiratory capacity, especially in patients with chronic lung diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Physiotherapists can help alleviate symptoms, promote airway, and improve blood oxygenation using techniques such as breathing exercises, postural drainage, and chest percussion. 

This type of physiotherapy is essential not only for adults but also for children and the elderly who have respiratory problems. Respiratory physiotherapy plays a central role in pulmonary rehabilitation and care and works on multiple fronts to ensure a better quality of life for patients.

Techniques and benefits of respiratory physiotherapy

crop therapist massaging foot of client
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Breathing exercises

Breathing exercises are designed to strengthen respiratory muscles, increase lung capacity, and improve respiratory efficiency. These exercises may include techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, which focuses on expanding the abdomen rather than the chest during inhalation, and compressed breathing, which helps keep the airway open for longer.

Postural drainage

Postural drainage involves placing the body in certain positions that facilitate the drainage of accumulated lung secretions, and gravity is used to aid the process. This method is especially useful for patients with illnesses that produce excess mucus, such as chronic bronchitis and cystic fibrosis.

Percussion and vibration

Chest percussion is the rhythmic tapping of the chest with the hands, while vibration involves the oscillating movements made during exhalation. Both techniques help to loosen mucus accumulated in the lungs, which facilitates cough secretion. 

Who can refer to physical therapy 


For children, especially those with congenital or acquired lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis, respiratory physiotherapy is essential. This helps prevent recurring infections and keep lung function as normal as possible. Age-appropriate play techniques are often used to improve adherence to therapy.

Adults and elderly

In adults, chest physical therapy is often used to treat chronic conditions such as COPD, asthma, and chronic bronchitis. In the elderly, in addition to treating lung diseases, respiratory physiotherapy helps combat the effects of aging on the respiratory system, promotes chest mobility, and prevents complications such as pneumonia.

 Impact on quality of life

  Chest physiotherapy not only improves lung function but also relieves symptoms such as shortness of breath, chronic cough, and fatigue. By improving blood oxygenation and respiratory efficiency, patients’ ability to perform daily activities is significantly improved and the frequency of hospitalization is reduced.

  Additionally, educating patients about breathing techniques and the importance of regular breathing exercises is an important part of treatment. It empowers patients to actively participate in the treatment of their respiratory diseases, promoting greater autonomy and self-sufficiency.

2. Neurological Physiotherapy

person holding multicolored ball
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  The goal of neurological physical therapy is to rehabilitate neurological diseases such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord injuries. The physiotherapist aims to improve patients’ mobility, muscular strength, and functional independence through specific techniques that include strengthening, stretching, and motor coordination exercises. This field is important for restoring motor skills and promoting neuroplasticity, helping patients recover lost or damaged functions.

  In addition to strengthening, stretching, and motor coordination techniques, there are other important therapeutic approaches in neurological physiotherapy. These include functional electrical stimulation (FES), kinesiotherapy, and the use of assistive technologies such as robotics and virtual reality. The objective of these methods is not only physical recovery but also improving the quality of life of patients.

Functional Electrical Stimulation (EEF): 

  EEF uses a low-intensity electrical current to stimulate paralyzed or weakened muscles, helping to restore movement patterns. This technique is particularly useful for patients with spinal cord injury or post-stroke stroke, promoting muscle activation and motor retraining.


 It includes a series of specific therapeutic exercises that restore functional movement, improve posture, and increase the range of joint movement. Physiotherapy is tailored to the patient’s individual needs, focusing on areas that require the most attention.

 Assistive technologies:

  The use of robotics and virtual reality in neurological physiotherapy has shown promising results. Robotic devices can help perform repetitive and precise movements, facilitating motor recovery. In addition to simulating everyday situations, virtual reality also provides a controlled and motivating environment for training, allowing patients to practice their skills safely and effectively.

  Additionally, neurological physical therapy often includes training in activities of daily living (ADL), which is essential for patients’ independence. This includes practicing basic skills like walking, dressing, eating, and doing household chores. The goal is for patients to be as independent as possible, which improves their independence and quality of life.

Education and support:

 Educating the patient and their caregivers is also an important part of the rehabilitation process. Physical therapists provide information about the patient’s condition, expected progress, and how to exercise safely at home. Emotional and motivational support also plays an important role in recovery, which helps patients maintain a positive attitude and follow the rehabilitation program.

3. Orthopedic Physiotherapy

  Orthopedic physical therapy focuses on treating musculoskeletal injuries such as fractures, sprains, tendinitis, and orthopedic surgeries. Using a combination of manual techniques, therapeutic exercises, and treatments such as ultrasound and electrotherapy, this type of physical therapy aims to reduce pain, restore joint and muscle function, and prevent future injuries. It is essential both in postoperative rehabilitation and in the conservative treatment of various orthopedic diseases, helping patients to safely return to daily and sporting activities.

   Orthopedic physical therapy focuses on treating musculoskeletal injuries such as fractures, sprains, tendinitis, and orthopedic surgeries. Using a combination of manual techniques, therapeutic exercises, and treatments such as ultrasound and electrotherapy, this type of physical therapy aims to reduce pain, restore joint and muscle function, and prevent future injuries.

   It is essential both in postoperative rehabilitation and in the conservative treatment of various orthopedic diseases, helping patients to safely return to daily and sporting activities.

4. Geriatric Physiotherapy

  As the population ages, the importance of geriatric physical therapy increases. This technique is specialized in treating the elderly and treats problems such as arthritis, osteoporosis, heart disease, and loss of mobility. Geriatric physical therapists use personalized exercise programs to improve strength, balance, and flexibility, prevent falls, and promote active, independent living. Furthermore, this area of ​​physical therapy is also involved in relieving chronic pain and promoting the general well-being of older adults. 

In addition to the physical benefits, geriatric physical therapy plays a vital role in the psychological and emotional well-being of older adults. Feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety can accompany the aging process, especially if mobility is reduced. With close and personalized service, physiotherapists create a relationship of trust with patients that can contribute to improving mental health.

  Geriatric physical therapy programs are typically multidisciplinary, involving physicians, nutritionists, occupational therapists, and social workers to provide comprehensive care. This integrated approach ensures that all seniors’ needs are met, from managing chronic conditions to supporting activities of daily living.

  Educating older adults and their caregivers about the importance of movement and necessary adaptations in the home environment is also an important part of the geriatric physical therapist’s work. Examples of preventive measures that can be implemented are instructions on the use of assistive devices, such as canes and wheelchairs, and modifications to environments to prevent falls.

  Research and innovation also play an important role in geriatric physiotherapy. New techniques, devices, and rehabilitation techniques are constantly developing to better meet the needs of this population. For example, virtual reality-based therapies have shown promising results in the rehabilitation of elderly people and offer a safe and motivating way to move.

  Life expectancy is increasing around the world and the demand for physiotherapists specializing in geriatrics continues to grow. The area offers important professional opportunities, but also improves the quality of life of the elderly and promotes independence and human dignity in old age.

5. Sports Physiotherapy

  Sports physiotherapy aimed at athletes and active people treats and prevents injuries related to sports. This includes rehabilitation from acute injuries such as muscle strains and ligament injuries, as well as physical preparation for returning to sports. Advanced assessment, stretching, strengthening, and postural re-education techniques are used to optimize performance and reduce the risk of future injuries. Sports physiotherapy is important not only for physical recovery but also for educating athletes about the importance of injury prevention and good physical conditioning. 

  Sports physiotherapy goes beyond treating injuries; It is important to maximize athletes’ performance and ensure they are in the best physical condition for competition. Additionally, sports physical therapists play an important role in educating athletes about proper training practices, proper biomechanics, and effective recovery techniques.

  Injury prevention is an important part of sports physical therapy. This may include identifying and correcting muscle imbalances, implementing sport-specific stretching and strengthening programs, and providing advice on safe exercise techniques. By educating athletes about the early signs of injury and how to avoid overuse, sports physical therapists help reduce the risk of serious injury and keep athletes in top shape.

  Additionally, sports physical therapy plays a vital role in recovery after an injury. Physical therapists design personalized rehabilitation programs that include a variety of techniques to restore range of motion, strengthen weakened muscles, and promote proper healing of damaged tissues. The goal is not only to restore physical function but also to return the athlete to sport safely and minimize the risk of re-injury.

Conclusion: Physiotherapy is the transport to healing 

  The five types of physiotherapy discussed here are important pillars for promoting health and quality of life in all age groups and health conditions. From recovering from orthopedic injuries to neurological rehabilitation, from special care for the elderly to physical training for athletes, physiotherapy stands out as a versatile and indispensable discipline. 

  Through innovative techniques, professional dedication, and a patient-centered approach, physical therapists play a critical role in patients’ journeys toward healing and well-being. Therefore, by recognizing the importance of each type of physiotherapy, we strengthen not only the appreciation of this profession but also its positive impact on the health and lives of people around the world.

Physical Therapy – FAQ:

 How long are physical therapy sessions

Physical therapy usually takes 30 to 60 minutes. The duration will vary depending on the person in need, the type of treatment, and the specific goals of the treatment. For example, training to rehabilitate a geriatric patient from a sports injury may require more exercise and take longer than training a functional elderly patient. The frequency and length of sessions are usually adjusted to ensure efficiency and the patient’s comfort and progress. Consistency and regularity in participating in these discussions are crucial to achieving positive outcomes in treatment and recovery.

 How much are physical therapy sessions

The cost of physical therapy can vary greatly depending on factors such as the therapist’s location, experience, and the type of treatment needed. On average, a session costs $50 to $150 or more. In some cases, insurance will cover some or all of the costs, especially if treatment is deemed necessary. For those paying out of pocket, some hospitals offer packages or discounted rates to make treatment more affordable. Fees and payment options should first be discussed with your doctor to understand the financial commitment involved with your health plan.

Why does physical therapy hurt

Because physical therapy involves exercises and techniques designed to treat injured or weak muscles and joints, it can sometimes be uncomfortable or painful. Discomfort often occurs as the body adapts to new movements or strengthens previously inactive muscles. Pain may also be part of the process of breaking down scar tissue or increasing the range of motion of skeletal muscles. However, this pain should be manageable and temporary. Communication with your doctor is important; They can adjust the intensity of exercise and give advice on how to manage discomfort safely and effectively.

Why is physical therapy so expensive

Physical therapy can be expensive for many reasons. These include the education and training of physiotherapists, the cost of maintaining a proper clinic, and the time spent on personal care. Physicians have invested years of education and continuing education to follow best practices that impact the cost of services. Good equipment and facilities also increase operating costs. Insurance coverage may reduce some of these costs, but out-of-pocket expenses are still significant for patients. Despite its high cost, personalized physical therapy and rehabilitation is essential to the recovery and long-term health of many people.

Top 5 Types of Physical Therapy You Need in 2024