What is Physical Therapy?

  • By Jobs For Therapists
  • Published on September 13

Physical therapy, often abbreviated as PT, is a healthcare profession that focuses on helping individuals recover, improve, or maintain their physical function and mobility. Physical therapists are trained healthcare professionals who work with patients of all ages and with a wide range of medical conditions and injuries.

The primary goals of physical therapy are:

  1. Pain Management: Physical therapists use various techniques and modalities to help alleviate pain and discomfort experienced by patients. This can involve manual therapies, heat/cold therapy, and more.
  2. Improving Mobility: PTs assess a patient's range of motion and mobility and then develop customized treatment plans to improve these aspects. This is particularly important for individuals who have experienced injuries, surgeries, or illnesses that have limited their movement.
  3. Rehabilitation: Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the rehabilitation process after surgeries or injuries. PTs design exercises and interventions to help patients regain strength, flexibility, and function in affected areas of their bodies.
  4. Prevention: Physical therapists also work on injury prevention. They educate patients on proper body mechanics, ergonomics, and exercises to reduce the risk of future injuries or to manage chronic conditions effectively.
  5. Enhancing Quality of Life: Beyond addressing specific physical issues, physical therapists often work to improve the overall quality of life for their patients. This can involve helping individuals with chronic conditions manage their symptoms or assisting older adults in maintaining their independence and mobility.

Physical therapy involves a range of treatment techniques, including:

  • Exercise Prescription: Designing and supervising specific exercises and stretches to target areas of weakness or limitation.
  • Manual Therapy: Hands-on techniques like joint mobilization, soft tissue mobilization, and massage to improve mobility and reduce pain.
  • Modalities: Using equipment such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation, heat, or cold to assist in pain management and tissue healing.
  • Education: Providing patients with guidance on lifestyle changes, posture improvement, and home exercises to maintain their progress.

Physical therapists work in various settings, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, sports medicine facilities, schools, and home healthcare. They collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and occupational therapists, to provide comprehensive care for patients.

To become a licensed physical therapist, one typically needs to complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program and pass the required licensing exams. Continuing education and specialization are also common in the field, allowing physical therapists to focus on specific patient populations or conditions, such as pediatrics, orthopedics, or sports medicine.