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What Is Physical Therapy?

a USA girl is giving services of physical therapy to another girl

What Is Physical Therapy?

People of all ages with injuries, diseases, or medical problems that restrict their normal ability to move and function benefit from physical therapy. An individualized physical therapy program can assist patients in regaining their previous level of functioning. In addition, it can promote behaviors and lifestyle adjustments that enhance general health and wellbeing, avoid additional injury, and prevent further impairment. Physical therapy is frequently recommended to patients by primary care physicians as soon as a problem arises since it is viewed as a conservative method of issue management.


What is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy is a medical specialty that focuses on improving physical capability and preventing or relieving movement problems. Physical therapy’s ultimate objective is to help each client or patient reach their greatest degree of independent function. The maximizing function involves exercise, therapeutic modalities, and consultative techniques. Physical therapists also teach their patients and the general public about disability prevention and health promotion.


Who Is A Physical Therapist?

These licensed healthcare practitioners complete specialized graduate-level physical therapy training. They may be referred to as PTs or physiotherapists. As of 2016, you must have earned a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from an authorized higher education school to qualify for the national test. To obtain a license, one must additionally pass a state test.

Physical therapists assess your health and create a treatment plan that directs your therapy. Your symptoms could be treated physically by them. They also teach you certain exercises to help you move and function better. You don’t need a doctor’s referral to see a physical therapist in most states. Or your physician could advise against it. Check your insurance coverage to find out if you require a prescription to cover the cost.

A PT won’t replace other doctors if you have a major disease or injury, but they will collaborate with them and other medical specialists to help with treatment planning. As a result, you’ll feel better, have a greater chance of regaining full function in the treated region, and in most situations, you’ll recover faster under the direction of a PT. PTs frequently have helpers. In addition, they have received training in a variety of physical therapies.


Patients of Physical Therapy

Physically impaired or functionally limited individuals who get physical therapy frequently report a decline in quality of life due to illness or injury-related physical disabilities. The people who frequently require physical therapy are back pain sufferers, older people with arthritis or balance issues, wounded athletes, children with developmental impairments, and those who have suffered from serious burns, strokes, or spinal cord injuries.

Exercise and education also enable people whose capacity for movement is hampered by heart or lung conditions or other illnesses to increase activity tolerance, enhance muscular strength, and move more effectively during functional tasks. In addition, people who lack a limb are trained to utilize prosthetic replacements.


What Does a PT Do?

Your PT will evaluate you and determine your requirements during your initial treatment session. They will enquire about your pain or other symptoms, mobility or capacity for daily activities, sleep quality, and medical background. The goal is to identify your condition’s diagnosis, the underlying causes, and any limitations it has caused or exacerbated before creating a care plan to address each. The PT will conduct examinations to evaluate:

  • How well you can move around, reach, bend, or grasp
  • How well do you walk or climb steps
  • Your heartbeat or rhythm while active
  • Your posture or balance

They will then collaborate with you to develop a treatment strategy. It will also involve exercises or other therapies to assist you in achieving your specific objectives, such as improving your functioning and feeling better. Compared to other physical therapy patients, it can take longer or less time to accomplish those goals. Everyone is unique. Furthermore, you could attend more or fewer sessions than others. Just what you need is what matters.


Common Conditions Physical Therapy May Help With

Depending on their area of expertise, physical therapists can offer supplemental care for various medical issues. Physical therapists strive to maximize healing or instruct patients on how to improve their movement patterns, even though they cannot directly and independently treat medical diseases other than pure musculoskeletal disorders. Following are a few ailments that could respond well to physical therapy:

  • Cardiopulmonary disorders such as post-myocardial infarction, heart failure, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • disorders that affect the hands, such as trigger finger and carpal tunnel syndrome
  • musculoskeletal dysfunction, which includes temporomandibular joint issues, back discomfort, and rotator cuff injuries
  • neurological diseases such as traumatic brain traumas, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, and vestibular dysfunction
  • Among the pediatric illnesses are cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy
  • sports-related ailments, including tennis elbow and concussions
  • female health and issues with the pelvic floor, such as urine incontinence and lymphedema
  • skin problems or wounds, including diabetic ulcers, burns, and wound care


Types of Physical Therapy

Physical therapists typically specialize since there are several forms of physical therapy. These kinds consist of:


Orthopedic physical therapy

This tackles musculoskeletal injuries to the muscles, bones, ligaments, fascia, and tendons. It is appropriate for treating injuries including fractures, sprains, tendinitis, bursitis, chronic illnesses, and recovery following orthopedic surgery. In addition, joint mobilizations, manual therapy, strength training, mobility training, and other therapeutic methods are available to patients.


Geriatric physical therapy

This can assist older persons with arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, hip and joint replacement, balance issues, and incontinence that impair their physical function and movement. This kind of care improves physical fitness, reduces discomfort, and restores mobility.


Neurological physical therapy

People who suffer from neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, brain damage, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, and stroke may benefit from this. Increased limb responsiveness, improved movement patterns, tone management, strength enhancement, and balance promotion may all be treatment goals.


Cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation

People who have had surgery or certain cardiopulmonary diseases may benefit from this. In addition, treatment can improve stamina and muscular and cardiovascular endurance.


Wound care therapy

Improving circulation helps guarantee that a healed wound receives enough oxygen and blood. In addition, manual treatments, e-stim, compression therapy, and wound care are possible components of physical therapy.


Vestibular therapy

This seeks to treat balance issues that inner ear issues may bring on. Exercises and manual approaches used in vestibular physical therapy can assist patients in regaining their balance and coordination.


Decongestive therapy

Patients with lymphedema and other illnesses involving fluid accumulation may benefit from this as a way to remove the collected fluid.


Pelvic floor rehabilitation

This can aid in treating pelvic floor disorders such as urine or fecal incontinence, urinary urgency, and pelvic discomfort brought on by accidents, surgeries, or other ailments.


Benefits of Physical Therapy

Reduce or Eliminate Pain

To alleviate pain and restore muscle and joint function, therapeutic exercises, manual therapy methods like joint and soft tissue mobilization, or treatments like ultrasound, taping, or electrical stimulation may be used. These treatments can also stop the discomfort from coming back.


Avoid Surgery

Surgery might not be required if physical therapy helps you manage pain or recover from an accident. However, pre-surgical physical therapy may be helpful even if surgery is necessary. In many instances, you will recover more quickly from surgery if you are stronger and in better shape before the procedure. Additionally, health care expenses are decreased by avoiding surgery.


Improve Mobility

Physical therapy can assist if you have problems standing, walking, or moving, regardless of your age. Exercises for flexibility and strength might help you regain your mobility. Physical therapists can examine for orthotic prescription and appropriately fit someone with a cane, crutches, or assistive equipment. Any activity vital to a person’s life may be practiced and modified to guarantee maximum performance and safety by creating a personalized individual care plan.


Recover from a Stroke

After a stroke, it’s normal to experience some function and mobility loss. Physical therapy helps balance and gait while strengthening weak areas of the body. Physical therapists can also help stroke patients move more easily in bed, increase their independence about the house, and lessen their dependence on others for everyday functions like dressing, bathing, and toileting.


Recover from or Prevent a Sports Injury

Physical therapists know how certain sports might raise your chance of suffering from particular ailments (such as stress fractures for distance runners). To guarantee a safe return to your sport, they can create customized workout routines for your rehabilitation or prevention.


Improve your Balance and Prevent Falls

You will undergo a fall risk assessment before starting physical therapy. Therapists will give you activities that cautiously and safely test your balance to simulate real-life scenarios if you have a high risk of falling. Your therapists can also provide you with walking aids and exercises to help you regain your coordination. In addition, physical therapists can carry out particular exercises that can quickly restore appropriate vestibular functioning, lessen, and even eradicate vertigo or dizzy sensations when a vestibular system issue brings on the balance issue.


Manage Diabetes and Vascular Conditions

Exercise can successfully regulate blood sugar when included in a comprehensive diabetes care strategy. Additionally, people with diabetes may experience issues with their legs’ and feet’ feelings. Physical therapists can assist in providing and instructing these patients on correct foot care to avoid future issues.


Manage Age-Related Issues

As people get older, they could have osteoporosis, arthritis, or find themselves in need of joint replacement. Physical therapists are professionals in assisting patients in their recovery after joint replacement surgery and in the conservative management of arthritic or osteoporotic disorders.


Manage Heart and Lung Disease

After a heart attack or operation, patients can finish cardiac rehabilitation, but if their everyday functioning is compromised, they can additionally get physical therapy. Through strengthening, conditioning, and breathing exercises, physical therapy can assist individuals with pulmonary issues, improve their quality of life and help them drain fluid from their lungs.


Manage Women’s Health and Other Conditions

Women’s health is unique because of issues including pregnancy and postpartum care. Physical therapists can provide specialist care for problems with women’s health. Other conditions for which physical therapy can offer specialist care include bowel incontinence, breast cancer, constipation, fibromyalgia, lymphedema, male pelvic health, pelvic discomfort, and urine incontinence.


Progress in Physical Therapy

The discipline of physical therapy is constantly expanding its scope of practice. For instance, the practice area of a developing specialization in women’s health includes incontinence, pelvic/vaginal discomfort, musculoskeletal pain during pregnancy and after childbirth, osteoporosis, recovery after breast surgery, and lymphedema (accumulation of fluids in soft tissues). In addition, physical therapy has advantages for women of all ages, from youthful athletes to pregnant, menopausal, or older women. Another crucial area in treating physical health for both men and women in education on prevention, wellness, and exercise.


Finding a Physical Therapist

Numerous variables may come into play while looking for a qualified physical therapist, such as insurance acceptance, specialty and purpose of treatment, and geographic proximity. For example, insurance providers frequently list physical therapy facilities participating in particular health plans. In addition, there could be a list of local therapists that other healthcare practitioners can recommend.


Is Physical Therapy the same as Occupational Therapy?

No. A health practitioner called an occupational therapist assists people of all ages and conditions in leading happy and fruitful lives. Physical therapists help persons with various physical conditions get past obstacles to their physical performance. Physical therapists seek to improve the quality of life and lessen the effects of disability.



Physical therapy can be very helpful for those with certain injuries, impairments, or other medical issues. A person should see a physical therapist or another medical expert for further details on the advantages of physical therapy.


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