What is a physical therapist?
A physical therapist is a healthcare professional who helps achieve maximum range of motion and physical ability, either by developing it in the first place or by restoring it after loss of physical ability due to illness, injury, or aging.
What does a physical therapist do?
When taking on a new patient, a physical therapist will take your health history and perform a physical exam. You will then develop a treatment plan tailored to the needs of the patient.
Some of the treatments that physical therapists use are:
- Massage to relieve soft tissue pain.
- Joint mobilization or manipulation.
- Exercises to strengthen weak areas.
- Cold to reduce inflammation.
- Heat to increase circulation.
- Ultrasound therapy to relieve muscle spasms.
- Electrical stimulation to help muscles contract.
Physical therapists not only work with people after an injury, they can also be found working in many specialty fields.
For example, a therapist who enjoys horseback riding may choose to pursue education in sports therapy, and then focus their efforts on obtaining clients who are also equine lovers. The therapist will be able to use his or her own knowledge and experience in the field to help clients in ways that a non-riding therapist might not be able to do.
There are even some physical therapists who focus on helping musicians who can develop repetitive use injuries from practicing for several hours a day. Any orthopedic physical therapist could give exercises and provide treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis, but only one who is also a trained musician could adequately advise the client how to modify to avoid further injury. This is just one example of how a physical therapist can use their areas of expertise through a career in physical therapy.
What is the workplace of a physical therapist like?
Physical therapists have a wide variety of employment opportunities. They may work in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, private practices, or with a sports team. They can also work for the government, in research, or they can even teach in physical therapy schools.