What Physical Therapists Do

PT Careers

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

  • Musculoskeletal

    Joint and soft-tissue injuries, back and neck pain, strains and sprains, headaches, osteoporosis, pre-and post-surgical conditions, arthritis

  • Neuromuscular

    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

  • Integument

    Burns, wounds and ulcers, collagenous disorders

  • Systemic Diseases

    Cancer, AIDS/HIV

  • Workplace Injuries

    Repetitive stress, such as carpal tunnel syndrome

  • Sports Injuries

    Overuse injuries, trauma in recreational, collegiate, and professional athletes

Environments Where Physical Therapists Work

  • Rehabilitation Hospitals

    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.

  • Community Health

    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.

  • Industry

    Physical therapists determine fitness requirements for specific jobs, screen and assess employees’ conditions, identify potentially dangerous worksites, and provide treatment to injured workers.

  • Sports

    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.

  • Administration

    Physical therapists manage departments and clinics and provide consultative services to colleagues and other health care providers.

  • Research

    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