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Physical therapy

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Physical therapy is the provision of services to people and populations to develop, maintain and restore maximum movement and functional ability throughout their lifespan. It includes the provision of services in circumstances where movement and function are threatened by the process of aging or that of injury or disease. Physical therapy sees full and functional movement as the heart of what it means to be healthy.

Physical therapy is concerned with identifying and maximizing movement potential, within the spheres of promotion, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. It involves the interaction between physical clients, families and care givers, in a process of assessing movement potential and in establishing agreed upon goals and objectives using knowledge and skills unique to physical therapists.

The physical therapists’ distinctive view of the body and its movement needs and potential is central to determining a diagnosis and an intervention strategy and is consistent whatever the setting in which practice is undertaken. These settings will vary in relation to whether physical therapy is concerned with health promotion, prevention, treatment or rehabilitation.

Physical therapy interventions may include:

"Manual handling; movement enhancement electrotherapeutic and mechanical agents; functional training; provision of aids and appliances; patient related instruction and counseling; documentation and coordination, and communication. Intervention may also be aimed at prevention of impairments, functional limitations, disability and injury including the promotion and maintenance of health, quality of life, and fitness in all ages and populations."

Some of the conditions that physical therapists manage include:

  • back and neck pain
  • spinal and joint conditions, such as arthritis
  • biomechanical problems and muscular control
  • cerebral palsy and spina bifida
  • heart and lung conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and atelectasis
  • sport-related injuries
  • headaches (cervicogenic and tension-type headache)
  • stress incontinence
  • neurological conditions, such as stroke and multiple sclerosis

Physical therapists

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.