Physical therapy is the field of medical care that uses exercise and such physical agents as heat, light, water, and massage to treat certain physical disabilities. Among its objectives are the relief of pain caused by surgery or by medical problems; the improvement of muscle strength, mobility; and the improvement of such basic functions as standing, walking, and grasping in patients who are recovering from debilitating illnesses or accidents or who are physically handicapped.
Heat may be applied to ease stiffening and pain in the joints. Massage is a standard physiotherapeutic technique, both for easing pain and for improving circulation. The most frequent type of treatment, however, is exercise, carefully chosen to increase joint mobility or to improve strength and coordination.