The physical therapists of today do much more than restore function to traumatized limbs.
They work with children to overcome crippling birth defects and with stroke victims to restore movement and independent living. For post-operative patients, they are the link in the health care team that speeds successful recovery physical therapists prevent and treat athletic injuries, teach special exercises and body mechanics to ease low back pain and plan treatment programs to reduce pain and improve motion in arthritic joints.
The role of Physical Therapy in present-day health care has become significant in the concept of total patient management. Because of advancements made, and improved research in treatments and techniques using scientific methodology, an ever-increasing variety of conditions are being seen for consultation by a physical therapist.
Physical therapists can apply their skills in most disciplines in medicine including neurology, neurosurgery, orthopedics, general surgery, family practice, pediatrics, geriatrics, rheumatology, internal medicine, cardiovascular medicine, cardiopulmonary medicine, psychiatry, and sports medicine The American Physical Therapy Association describes physical therapy as a form of health care that prevents, identifies, corrects, and alleviates acute or prolonged movement dysfunction of anatomic or physiologic origin. The primary objective of physical therapy is to promote optimum human health and function.
Working always in conjunction with physicians, they are valuable members of the health care team, trained to improve movement and function, relieve pain and expand mobility potential. Through evaluation and programs of treatment Physical Therapists can help existing problems and provide preventive health care for people and children with a variety of needs. Physical therapy is a fun and exciting healthcare profession that helps people with many types of medical afflictions. Although the profession is relatively new, physical therapy initially began during World War I with the work done by restorative aides.
The profession has grown over the years and therapists can now specialize in pediatrics, sports medicine, neurology, home health, geriatrics, orthopedics, aquatic therapy, wound care, electrotherapy, occupational health, women’s health, acute care, education, administration, research and cardiopulmonary rehabilitation. Physical therapists today will often work in a variety of settings at hospitals, nursing homes, schools, outpatient clinics, fitness facilities, the home environment, and at many industrial companies.
A physical therapist will evaluate and treat those with musculoskeletal disorders, neurological dysfunctions, and those with other types of disease, injury or illness. Manual therapy, joint mobilization, myofascial release, and neurodevelopmental(NDT) techniques are only some of the special skills used by therapists to treat patients to help lessen disability, pain and improve overall function and quality of life. Therapists use special equipment called modalities when treating patients which help aid in the healing and recovery of an injury.
Electrical stimulation, hot packs, cold packs, infrared and ultrasound are only some of the modalities one may require during a treatment session with a physical therapist. As part of treatment and the rehabilitation process, a physical therapist will often stretch, strengthen, facilitate muscles, challenge balance, test coordination abilities, teach home exercise programs and enhance basic mobility skills. The physical therapy assistant helps the physical therapist with patient treatment programs. Rehabilitation is not done solely by the physical therapist or physical therapy assistant, but by the team efforts of many health professionals.
Physical therapists will coordinate treatment plans with doctors, nurses, social workers, and occupational therapists just to name a few. This multidisciplinary approach helps achieve patient goals and individual treatment outcomes as quickly and as effectively as possible. Occupational therapy is another allied health field closely associated with physical therapy.
While occupational therapy generally concentrates on activities of daily living, the ability to dress, cook, clean and manage safety in the home environment, physical therapy will focus on basic gross mobility skills such as getting out of bed, walking safely with crutches or a walker, moving specific joints and strengthening specific muscles the body. Both fields overlap somewhat as both provide special splints, hand/upper extremity (arm) therapy, and work hardening/work conditioning programs. Both professions also aim to reduce pain, restore function, and promote as much independence as possible.
The practice of physical therapy and occupational therapy vary from place to place and if physical therapy around the globe is explored, one may find slight variations in the practice of physical therapy within different countries.