How Are Physical Therapy and Yoga Related?

Physical therapy is a type of medical treatment that helps people recover and maintain function and movement after injury or illness. Orthopedic physical therapy uses a variety of exercises, muscle retraining techniques and joint manipulation therapies to help restore and maintain the function of joints, bones and muscles. Recently, a form of physical therapy known as yoga therapy has become popular. Yoga therapists are trained physical therapists who use yoga poses and techniques to restore movement and function to injured and damaged joints, bones and muscles. Yoga therapy works well because yoga offers many of the same physical benefits as physical therapy.

Why People Get Physical Therapy

Patients may need physical therapy for a number of reasons. Physical therapy can be useful for the treatment of a number of neurological disorders, like cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. Physical therapy can help children who are suffering from conditions that cause motor problems, and it can help the elderly retain their range of motion as they age. Physical therapy is often used to treat injuries and damage done by repetitive action.

Types and Benefits of Physical Therapy

There are several types of physical therapy, each tailored towards the needs of a specific subgroup of patients. They are:

  • Pediatric physical therapy
  • Geriatric physical therapy
  • Neurological therapy
  • Orthopedic therapy
  • Speech therapy

Physical therapy can benefit patients in a number of ways, but it’s mostly used to treat disorders and injuries that affect the muscles, joints and bones. Physical therapy can restore and maintain motion and strength, reduce pain and increase muscle elasticity, reduce inflammation in the joints, increase joint motion and physical coordination.

How Yoga is Related to Physical Therapy

Many people begin doing yoga as part of their recovery from an injury or illness. The concept of using yoga as a form of physical therapy is credited to T. Krishnamacharya, a yoga teacher who believed in the healing power of yoga and whose son, B. K. S. Iyengar, has pioneered the field of yoga therapy.

Yoga’s beneficial health effects are well known. Yoga has been used to stimulate the immune system, strengthen the cardiovascular system and manage anxiety and depression. But many now use yoga to treat musculoskeletal disorders, pain and injury.

Like physical therapy, yoga increases blood flow to injured or damaged areas of the body; yoga strengthens muscles and joints and can help restore and maintain function. Yoga helps to relieve pain, improve balance and coordination, increase muscle elasticity and endurance, promote healing and decrease inflammation. Unlike physical therapy, yoga is a holistic discipline known for its spiritual and emotional benefits.

How Yoga Therapy Combines Yoga with Physical Therapy

Yoga therapy is a form of physical therapy in which patients work individually with physical therapists who are also trained in yoga. Yoga therapists, like traditional physical therapists, give patients specific exercises to perform; these exercises change as treatments progress. Yoga therapists, however, use yoga poses and breathing exercises to treat pain, injury and disease.


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