What role does physical therapy play?
Trained professionals provide evaluation and treatment for abnormal physical function resulting from an injury, disability, or other health condition, which is commonly referred to as physical therapy or PT.
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, physical therapists are trained and licensed movement experts (APTA). They are capable of diagnosing and treating a wide variety of injuries, disabilities, and illnesses.
Physical therapists help people improve their range of motion and quality of life while preventing further injury or disability.
Outpatient offices, private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, home health, sports and fitness settings, schools, hospices, occupational settings, government agencies, and research centers are all places where licensed physical therapists work.
What to anticipate
A physical therapist assists patients in all stages of healing, from initial diagnosis to restorative and preventive care. Physical therapy can be used as a stand-alone treatment or in conjunction with other treatments.
Some patients are referred by their doctor to a physical therapist, while others seek treatment on their own.
A physician or physical therapist, according to the laws or regulations of the World Physiotherapy Federation, must receive training that allows them to:
- conduct a physical examination and evaluation of a person’s movement, flexibility, muscle and joint motion, and performance, as well as learning about their medical history
- supply a clinical diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan with short- and long-term goals
- carry out physical therapy treatments and interventions
- make self-management recommendations, such as exercises that can be done at home
- Physical therapy treatment may involve more than just physical manipulation, and may include:
- Iontophoresis: This technique employs an electrical current to deliver medications such as topical steroids. This has the potential to reduce the presence of inflammation.
- Electrical stimulation (e-stim): E-stim comes in two varieties. Reduces pain by electrical stimulation of the nerves through the skin. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation, on the other hand, works to stimulate muscular motor units in order to improve muscular engagement.
- Heat, moist heat, and cold therapy may be beneficial for a variety of conditions.
- Light therapy: The use of special lights and lasers to treat specific medical conditions.
Common ailments Physical therapy may be beneficial
Depending on their specialty, physical therapists can provide supplementary treatment for a wide range of medical conditions.
Although physical therapists do not treat medical conditions other than pure musculoskeletal conditions directly and independently, they do work to improve recovery or educate people on how to improve their movement patterns.
Physical therapy may help with the following conditions:
- cardiopulmonary conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, and post-myocardial infarction heart failure may benefit from physical therapy.
- Hand-related issues such as trigger finger and carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Musculoskeletal dysfunction, such as back pain, rotator cuff tears, and TMJ disorders
- neurological disorders such as stroke, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, vestibular dysfunction, and traumatic brain injuries
- Children’s diseases, for example, muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy.
- Injuries in athletes such as concussion and tennis elbow
- Female health and pelvic floor dysfunction, including urinary incontinence and lymphedema; and
- Skin conditions or injuries, including burns, wound care, and diabetic ulcers.
The Advantages of Physical Therapy
Physical therapy benefits may include the following, depending on the reason for treatment:
- The objective is to reduce the dependence on opioids in managing pain
- Avoidance of surgery
- Improved mobility and movement
- Injury or trauma recovery
- Stroke or paralysis recovery
- fall prevention
- improved balance
- Treatment of age-related medical issues
A sports therapist can assist an athlete in improving their performance by strengthening specific areas of the body and retraining muscles to work in new ways.
A physical therapist or another healthcare professional can advise people on the benefits that are unique to their medical history and treatment needs.
There are numerous types of physical therapy, and therapists frequently specialize. These are some examples:
- Orthopedic physical therapy: This type of physical therapy treats musculoskeletal injuries that affect the muscles, bones, ligaments, fascia, and tendons. It can aid in the treatment of fractures, sprains, tendinitis, bursitis, chronic health issues, and the rehabilitation or recovery from orthopedic surgery. Patients may be treated with joint mobilization, manual therapy, strength training, mobility training, and other modalities.
- Geriatric physical therapy: This can assist older adults who have mobility and physical function issues, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, hip and joint replacement, balance disorders, and incontinence. This type of intervention can restore mobility, reduce pain, and improve physical fitness.
- Neurological physical therapy can benefit people suffering from neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, brain injury, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, and stroke. Treatment may aim to improve limb responsiveness, movement patterns, tone management, strength, and balance.
- Cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation: This can help people who have been affected by certain cardiopulmonary conditions or surgical procedures. It has been demonstrated that treatment improves muscular and cardiovascular endurance and stamina.
- Wound care treatment: Improving circulation may help a healing wound ensure that it gets enough oxygen and blood. Physical therapy may employ manual therapies, e-stim, compression therapy, and wound care.
- Vestibular therapy: This aims to treat balance issues caused by inner ear conditions. Vestibular physical therapy consists of a variety of exercises and manual techniques that can assist patients in regaining balance and coordination.
- Decongestive therapy: This can help patients with lymphedema and other conditions involving fluid accumulation drain accumulated fluid.
- Pelvic floor rehabilitation: This can aid in the treatment of conditions affecting the pelvic floor, such as urinary or fecal incontinence, urinary urgency, and pelvic pain as a result of injuries, surgery, or other factors.
What precisely is pediatric physical therapy?
Pediatric physical therapy is concerned with the diagnosis, treatment, and management of conditions affecting infants, children, and adolescents. Among these conditions are:
- Developmental delays
- Cerebral palsy
- Spina bifida
- Other musculoskeletal conditions
Pediatric physical therapists work to improve mobility, relieve pain, develop or restore function, and prevent or reduce permanent physical disabilities.
They collaborate closely with children, their families, and caregivers to help children function independently and actively at home and at school.
Identifying a Physical Therapist
Finding a suitable physical therapist can be complicated by a variety of factors such as insurance acceptance, specialty and reason for treatment, and geographical location.
Physical therapy locations that participate in specific health plans are frequently listed by insurance companies. Other healthcare professionals in the area may have a list of therapists they recommend.
Another option is to look online or use the APTA Find a PT web-based tool.
Physical therapy schooling
To practice as a physical therapist in the United States, one must first obtain a doctorate in physical therapy and then pass a state licensure exam.
Physical therapists research topics such as:
- Cellular histology
- exercise physiology
- Behavioral sciences
- Cardiovascular studies
- Pulmonary, endocrine, metabolic, and musculoskeletal research
Physical therapists can specialize in a variety of areas, including:
- Cardiovascular and pulmonary health
- Clinical electrophysiology
- Older adults’ health
- Neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics, and sports physical therapy
Physical therapy can be extremely beneficial for people suffering from injuries, disabilities, or other medical conditions.
A person should speak with a physical therapist or another healthcare professional for more information on the benefits of physical therapy.