Physical therapy is a type of healthcare specialty that deals with assessing and treating mobility issues. A licensed physical therapist provides the treatments. When patients have an injury or illness, physical therapists assist them in managing their pain, improving their movements and reintegrating them into the community. They use a range of exercises to improve a patient’s range of motion, posture, muscle performance and respiratory system. In addition, they also work to help patients achieve better balance and coordination.
Physical therapists typically work in clinics or hospitals; however, they can also work in nursing homes or private offices. A small percentage of physical therapists are self-employed, so they manage their own practice. The job requires people to stay on their feet for most of the day; therefore, they must be physically active while on the job.
In order to treat patients, physical therapists use the disablement model. This model involves the use of pathophysiology. It is used to treat impairments, functional limitations and disabilities. When using the disablement model, physical therapists can help restore limb function, relieve pain, improve mobility and prevent permanent disabilities. They encourage patients to take steps to keep up their overall health and fitness. Patients who see a physical therapist often include accident victims and those who have a disabling condition. Some of the most common disabling conditions include arthritis, lower back pain, cerebral palsy and heart disease.
Once they have examined their patients, physical therapists create treatment plans. These plans describe the strategy; they form a purpose and have an anticipated outcome. On occasion, a physical therapist assistant is the one who implements the treatment plan. The assistant works directly under the supervision of the physical therapist.
Most physical therapy treatment plans involve some form of exercise. If a patient is immobilized and lacks flexibility, then exercise is used to improve his or her levels of strength and endurance. Physical therapists urge patients to use their muscles to improve their flexibility. Once they have achieved a wider range of motion, patients move on to advanced exercises. These advanced exercises improve balance, strength and coordination. Since patients reach a higher endurance level, they can function better at home and in the workplace.
Besides exercise, treatments may also involve the use of electrical stimulation. If a patient is in a wheelchair, the physical therapist may use electrical stimulation on his or her leg muscles. Some other treatment methods include the use of hot packs or cold compresses. An ultrasound can even be used to reduce swelling and relieve pain symptoms. Traction and deep-tissue massages are another way to ease pain.
In addition to implementing treatment plans, therapists teach patients how to use helpful devices. For instance, they may show patients how to use crutches the proper way. It is also common for them to teach patients how to use prosthetics and wheelchairs. They even demonstrate how the exercises can be performed at home to make for a speedier recovery. Throughout the treatment plan, a physical therapist documents the patient’s progress. Whenever necessary, the therapist conducts periodic tests and modifies the treatment plan. This is the best way to identify and focus on areas that need more attention.
Physical therapists usually consult with other medical professionals when working with patients. For instance, they may consult with physicians, occupational therapists and audiologists. A physical therapist is allowed to specialize within a certain area of the field. Some choose to work in either pediatrics or geriatrics. If someone is a fan of sports, he or she can choose to specialize in sports medicine. Other areas within the field are orthopedics, oncology and neurology.