Let’s say you experience an injury, like an ankle sprain, after twisting it while landing to rebound the ball in a pick-up basketball game. The pain prevents you from playing basketball and moving around normally, so you decide to see a physical therapist for treatment to help your ankle heal. Your physical therapist prescribes a series of strengthening and stretching exercises, as well as other interventions, which leads to the rehabilitation of your ankle, and you regain the ability to function normally again.
So, as this rehabilitation process occurs and you improve, what is actually happening?
At the cellular level, what’s largely responsible for this rehabilitation is a concept called mechanotherapy. The term mechanotherapy is used in the context of prescribing specific treatment plans to promote healing and rehabilitation through various interventions that usually include supervised exercises, massage or manipulation, or the use of heat, ice or other similar treatments.
Understanding the cellular process of mechanotherapy is necessary to comprehend why repair actually happens in rehabilitation, and it really comes down to the response of cells. The cells that make up all of our tissues are designed to respond to loading, meaning that when a load is presented to them—such as during a strengthening exercise—they are built to react in a certain way.
After a load is introduced, it’s said that cells are “physically perturbed,” and when this occurs, the stimulus is transformed into a variety of chemical signals within and among cells. These signals cause a number of reactions that includes an increase in protein synthesis and the adding of tissue wherever possible. This process leads to larger and stronger bones and muscles, and is why muscles grow from strengthening exercises.
At Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy, we use a system called Functional Range Release (FRR) that capitalizes on the importance of mechanotherapy when treating patients. FRR is an advanced system of soft-tissue treatment that’s based on a principle called myofascial release, which aims to relax muscles, improve blood and lymph flow and stimulate the stretch reflex in muscles.
The basic premise of FRR is that the tissue responsible for limiting your range of motion after injury is not actually due to the muscle itself—as is commonly thought—but is actually a result of the nervous system’s control of that muscle. The goal of the system is to simultaneously increase a patient’s stretch threshold while also developing strength in this new extended range of motion. This is all based on the concept of mechanotherapy and will lead to an overall increase in the patient’s range of motion.
To learn more about mechanotherapy and how it’s involved in your rehabilitation in New York City, or for any other aches or pains you may be experiencing, Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy can help. Call us at 212-317-8303 for more information or to schedule an appointment.