What is Physical Therapy

» What is Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a dynamic profession with an established theoretical and scientific base and widespread clinical applications in the restoration, maintenance, and promotion of optimal physical function.  For more than 750,000 people every day in the United States, physical therapists:


  • Diagnose and manage movement dysfunction and enhance physical and functional abilities.
  • Restore, maintain, and promote not only optimal physical function but optimal wellness and fitness and optimal
    quality of life as it relates to movement and health.
  • Prevent the onset, symptoms, and progression of impairments, functional limitations, and disabilities that may result from diseases, disorders, conditions, or injuries. As essential participants in the health care delivery system, physical therapists assume leadership roles in rehabilitation; in prevention, health maintenance, and programs that promote health, wellness, and fitness; and in professional and community organizations.

Who Are Physical Therapsts?

Physical Therapists (PTs) are health care professionals who diagnose and treat people of all ages who have medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives.  PTs also help prevent conditions associated with loss of mobility through fitness and wellness programs that achieve healthy and active lifestyles.  PTs examine individuals and develop plans using treatment techniques that promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability.  They provide care in hospitals, clinics, schools, sports facilities, and more.  PTs must have a graduate degree from an accredited physical therapy program before taking the national licensure examination.  The minimum educational requirement is a master's degree, yet most educational programs now offer the doctor of physical therapy (DPT) degree.  Licensure is required in each state in which a physical therapist practices.

Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) are also licensed and obtain an associates degree through an accredited physical therapist assistant program. They provide care under a physical therapist's direction and supervision. Services provided by PTAs also include hands on care, teaching prescribed exercsies, providing other prescribed treatments to relieve pain, and assist in measuring changes in function resulting from physical therapy.

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