For thousands of years, physical medicine has been used to attempt to relieve pain, give patients back there movement and mobility after illness or trauma, or train those patients in how to cope with physical disabilities. During the 20th and 21st centuries these aims have been supplemented by psychological therapy, often used to assist patients to come to terms with severe injuries; occupational therapies, to help them to continue with their careers, or perhaps adapt to new ones; and mechanical and/or electrical aids to either assist the patient's own body to function correctly, or to provide a means for that patient to achieve greater independence through automation

Many of the therapies employed are almost as old as time itself. Heat treatment can be very effective for many patients; whilst the old-fashioned hot bath treatments are still in use, infrared lamps, ultrasound and high-frequency electrical stimulation and new weapons in the armoury. Massage is still a valuable and useful means of relieving muscular stress and achieving local pain relief;. and exercises are individually designed for each patient in order to try to maximise any possible benefit.

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