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How can a physical therapist help you?

Published On: Aug 23 2012 01:57:01 PM CDT
Updated On: May 13 2013 09:30:32 AM CDT
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By Stephanie Bredt, Contributing writer

The field of physical therapy began in the 1920s in the United States. It was started because of the need to rehabilitate soldiers who became disabled serving in the war. Now physical therapy serves all levels of people; children, adults, and seniors suffering from all sorts of conditions and physical disabilities.

A physical therapist is often confused with a personal trainer or exercise instructor. However, they are very different than a personal trainer or exercise instructor in both education and scope of work.

Education A physical therapist must complete a four-year bachelor degree from a university. They are also required to complete an additional four-year masters degree or doctorate degree in physical therapy. In addition, they must also sit for the National Physical Therapy Examination given by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

A physical therapist is a health care professional that works to improve comfort and restore mobility for patients suffering from acute or chronic pain and disabilities resulting from an injury or illness. Physical therapists usually specialize in certain areas of medicine, such as pediatrics, orthopedics, sports medicine, arthritis, paralysis, and amputations. They work under the direction of a physician, and often work in coordination with nurses, psychologists, occupational therapists, and social workers.

Physical therapists work in hospitals, nursing homes, private offices, or other facilities where medical treatment is provided, and usually on an outpatient basis. Depending on the nature and severity of the patient's condition, physical therapists see patients over a course of weeks, months, or years.

When a new patient seeks treatment, the physical therapist begins with an evaluation of the patient's condition, their medical records, and their physician's recommendations. Next they test and measure the patient's range of motion, flexibility, muscle strength, coordination, endurance, posture, and motor skills. Then the physical therapist develops a physical therapy program for the patient.

The program will include education for the patient regarding the cause of their condition and exercises to improve function, mobility, and strength. Often the physical therapist will also provide therapeutic modalities such as massage therapy, traction, heat therapy, water therapy, ultrasound, and electric stimulation to assist their patients to manage pain and to expedite recovery. They physical therapist is also responsible for recording notes and writing reports on the patient's progress.

In short, the main jobs of the physical therapists are to evaluate their patient's condition, develop a therapy plan, and provide exercises and therapeutic modalities to help their patient's manage pain and speed recovery. They assist people who are suffering from both acute and chronic disabilities to achieve good physical health.