Choosing the Right PT Parallel Bars for Your Practice or Home

Parallel Bars Buying Guide

Parallel bars for therapy and rehabilitation consist of a frame with two horizontal bars greater than shoulder-distance apart held at approximately waist height by vertical bars. There are three main types of parallel bars: wall-mounted, platform-mounted and floor-mounted. As the name suggests, wall-mounted and floor-mounted physical therapy bars permanently attach to a wall or the floor for support. Platform-mounted parallel bars come in a variety of sizes and portability options. Parallel physical therapy bars give clients support to hold onto during walking rehabilitation and gait training. Parallel bars help clients re-build both lower and upper body strength, mobility, balance, endurance and increase their range of motion. Clients who have experienced damage to their lower bodies and legs but still retain upper body strength to hold themselves up may benefit from incorporating physical therapy parallel bars into their rehabilitation plans. For example, parallel bar exercises may suit people who have experienced nerve damage, muscle atrophy or are recovering from an operation or accident.


Selecting parallel bars for your practice

Choosing the best parallel bars for your practice requires considerations about your available office space, such as whether they need to be portable, types of handles and grips and client accessibility. When selecting parallel bars, consider how often you will incorporate them into your treatment plans based on the kind of clients you currently treat or plan to focus on. If walking rehabilitation and gait training is a critical part of your practice, you may want to consider purchasing more substantial, permanent parallel bars for therapy. The size of the parallel bars you choose to add to your practice's physical therapy supplies will depend on office space available.

Start by measuring the available area set aside for the parallel bars to narrow down your options. If wall space is abundant, but floor space is limited, fold-away, wall-mounted parallel bars may be the best parallel bars for your practice to ensure sufficient space remains for essential physical therapy furniture and equipment. Therapists who go to clients' homes may find smaller, portable models better value. Because therapists work with a wide range of people with different needs, it's a good idea to opt for adjustable physical therapy bars to enhance accessibility for clients. Rubber or foam grips and handles are essential to support the client during exercises comfortably.

What options are there for combining parallel bars with other equipment?

The best parallel bars for physical therapy can be easily incorporated with other rehabilitation equipment to enhance the treatment possibilities. Combining parallel bars with CanDo® products for physical therapy such as aerobic pads, balance boards, discs or stones creates support for clients to hold onto while the practice balancing on difficult surfaces. Bodyweight supports reduce the weight load on the lower extremities during walking and movement exercises. Bodyweight supports with parallel bars physical therapy exercises may also be useful for clients who have restricted movement or strength in the upper body and may find it too challenging to hold the bars and support their entire weight on their legs. For a lower level of assistance, incorporate resistance bands into specific exercises to add extra support and help the client feel more secure during workouts. Resistance bands can also be used to increase the difficulty level of activities by looping the bands around the body, adding resistance to movements. Alternatively, incorporate physical therapy weights into training once the client has built enough strength.

Choosing parallel bars for your home

At home, use parallel bars for therapy or to build athletic performance. People who require daily walking rehabilitation or those who are making an at-home gym may find parallel bars a valuable investment. When purchasing the best parallel bars for your home, consider how often and what type of exercises you will use it for. Being able to adjust the height and width of parallel bars increases the number of different exercises that can be practiced using the bars. Adjustable parallel bars may also be useful if there are multiple people in the house using them. Use exercise and physical therapy bars for the following exercises:

- Walking rehabilitation
- Gait training
- Bar dips
- Tricep dips
- Leg raises
- L-sit tucks
- Straddle-planche
- Front lever

What is the difference between training and physical therapy parallel bars?

Both training and physical therapy bars have the same basic structure. Parallel bars for athletic exercises often have plain metal bars without any grips. Parallel bars for therapy should feature foam or rubber grips to increase stability and comfort during training. Training bars for gymnastic-type exercises are often higher or can be adjusted to be above waist level, enabling more upper body exercises, such as pull-ups, straddles and spins around the bar.


Considerations to help you find the right parallel bars for your practice or home

Each style of parallel bars has its pros and cons. Finding the best parallel bars for you means personalizing them for your home or clinic needs. Answering the following questions will help you decide what is right for you.

How often do the parallel bars need to be moved or adjusted?

Before purchasing physical therapy bars, consider whether they will be a permanent structure in the room or if they will need to be moved and adjusted for different people. Foldable portable models may be best for therapists who need to move between locations. Foldable models would also suit people wanting at-home parallel bars for therapy or exercise but who also need to store them easily in storage space. If selecting parallel bars for home use by one person, adjustability may not be as essential.

How much space is available to keep them?

Physical therapy bars come in a variety of lengths with varying adjustable bar heights and widths. Free room space will be a significant factor when selecting the best type of parallel bars for you. If there is enough space open to have physical therapy bars as permanent structures in the room and they will be in regular use, then opting for a platform or floor-mounted model may be right for you. Foldaway wall-mounted physical therapy bars conveniently save floor space in small rooms.

How much weight do they need to hold?

For proper support during exercises and rehabilitation, parallel bars for therapy must be able to hold a lot of weight. Each model has a maximum weight limit. Parallel bars maximum weight capacities typically range between 300 lbs. (136 kg) and 500 lbs. (227 kg). Physical therapy bars with a center connection have a higher weight capacity than bars without a center connection. Portable and foldable models typically have lower weight capacities when compared to the permanent floor or platform models. The best parallel bars for use in a physical therapy practice will have a higher weight capacity than home use models to accommodate a wide range of clients.

What are the installation options?

Parallel bars for therapy can either be wall-mounted, floor-mounted or platform-mounted. Wall-mounted bars require a sturdy connection as the wall acts as one of the support columns. Floor-mounted models permanently install directly into the floor. These models have the benefit of being able to adjust to the ideal width initially. Platform-mounted models may be the best option when permanently installing physical therapy bars onto the wall or floor is not an option. Platform-mounted parallel bars often feature a nonslip tread on the base to provide stability during exercises. Before permanently installing wall- or floor-mounted parallel bars for therapy, consider the stability of the ground beneath them. If the floor is too smooth or slippery, you may have to incorporate the use of nonslip exercise mats or flooring into the design.

Parallel bars are a useful type of physical therapy exercise equipment. Physical therapy bars are especially helpful in walking rehabilitation and gait training exercises to build lower body strength, balance, range of motion and flexibility. When paired with other equipment, such as bodyweight supports, resistance bands and balance boards, the variety of potential exercises increases, making parallel bars a useful addition to any clinic's supportive medical practice furniture.