What Physical Therapists Do
Physical therapists examine patients, identify primary problems, and establish physical therapy diagnoses, determine prognosis, plan and implement interventions, modify the treatment plan according to the patient’s progress, provide prevention and wellness programs, and consult, educate, and perform research and administrative duties in several different environments.
As experts in movement science, physical therapists evaluate joint motion, muscle strength, endurance, functional ability, function of heart and lungs, and developmental activities for patients across the lifespan.
After making the diagnosis and determining the prognosis, physical therapists use exercise, joint mobilization, cardiovascular endurance training, therapeutic massage, therapeutic electrical modalities, wound debridement, ambulation training, and education on functional activities, relaxation. and prevention to help patients achieve their goals.
Conditions Physical Therapists Treat
Joint and soft-tissue injuries, back and neck pain, strains and sprains, headaches, osteoporosis, pre-and post-surgical conditions, arthritis
Stroke, brain injury, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, peripheral nerve injuries, cerebral palsy, Lou Gehrig’s disease
Cardiovascular and Pulmonary
Congestive heart failure, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lymphedema, peripheral vascular disease
Burns, wounds and ulcers, collagenous disorders
Repetitive stress, such as carpal tunnel syndrome
Overuse injuries, trauma in recreational, collegiate, and professional athletes
Environments Where Physical Therapists Work
Physical therapists are part of the health care team who work with the patient and family to identify the patient’s goals. They examine patients and evaluate their needs before implementing a treatment program. They teach patients to use assistive devices and provide home instruction to facilitate transition to the home.
Physical therapists deliver rehabilitation care in the home, teach prenatal and postnatal exercise classes, screen, evaluate, and treat children in the schools. They also teach back care classes to prevent pain and injury.
Physical therapists determine fitness requirements for specific jobs, screen and assess employees’ conditions, identify potentially dangerous worksites, and provide treatment to injured workers.
Physical therapists assess athletes’ performance abilities, condition athletes to improve performance, recommend safety equipment to reduce injuries, examine and treat athletic injuries, and develop fitness programs for all segments of the general public.
Physical therapists manage departments and clinics and provide consultative services to colleagues and other health care providers.
Physical therapists design, plan, conduct, and report studies that will lead to new knowledge, technology, and effective patient care.
Additional Clinical Settings
Private practices, skilled nursing facilities, hospice, schools, fitness centers, academic and research centers