What Is Physical Therapy?

What Is Physical Therapy?

by Crystal (SU)

Independence and functional movement are central to good health and a desirable quality of life. Physical therapy, or physiotherapy, is a medical discipline with many subspecialties.

A physical therapist (PT) can help a person regain their independence and their ability to move after various types of trauma and health conditions. A physical therapist is a licensed medical professional who has qualifications, training, and experience in restoring and maintaining physical function and mobility.

To become a physical therapist, a person must first earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree and be licensed. Usually, a person who is being treated by a physical therapist received a prescription for the therapy by a physician or surgeon. 

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

A physical therapist utilizes a program of movements and exercises to address a patient’s specific health condition, including an injury, disability, disease, or disorder.

Physical therapists employ hands-on treatments as well as patient education and coping skills. Often, physical therapy can eliminate or reduce the need for expensive surgery and long-term use of prescription medications.

Goals of Physical Therapy

Physical therapy aims to ease pain and improve function and mobility, so patients can live a fuller, more active life. People of all ages can benefit from physical therapy. It helps patients with: 

  • Pain relief
  • Improved movement and function
  • Balance and coordination control
  • Rehabilitation after an injury, debilitating illness, or surgery
  • Prevention of disability or surgery
  • Adapting to prostheses (artificial body parts)
  • Management of chronic illnesses (arthritis, diabetes, heart disease)
  • Brace and splint training
  • Assistive device training (such as with a cane or walker)
  • Bowel or bladder control
  • Recovery from a sports injury

Conditions Treated by Physical Therapy

Some common health issues and conditions that physical therapists frequently treat include:

  • Back pain
  • Sports injuries
  • Accident injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Arthritis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Amputation
  • Neurological disorders
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Fractures
  • Stroke
  • Recovery after surgery

Physical Therapy Evaluation

PTs use medical history, physical examinations, and laboratory and imaging studies to establish a treatment plan. They may also take specific measurements to gather data regarding the patient’s impairment, including:

  • Flexibility – movement, reach, bend, or grasp
  • Range of motion
  • Pain levels
  • Oxygen levels and pulmonary function
  • Balance and coordination
  • Neurological function
  • Strength
  • Cardiac function
  • Posture
  • Overall mobility

The PT will then offer a strategic exercise plan based on the patient’s lifestyle and physical fitness. These exercises can be mild – and just have the purpose of getting the person to move their body – or they can be special stretching or strengthening exercises.

Types of Physical Therapy and Treatments

Treatment of a patient is based on initial evaluation and ongoing reassessment by the physical therapist and physicians. In addition to exercise, massage therapy, heat, and cold treatments, there are many different forms of physical therapy, including the following:

Neurological physical therapy for neurological disorders and conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, brain trauma, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury, or stroke.

Geriatric physical therapy for older patients with arthritis, balance disorders, hip and joint replacement, incontinence, or osteoporosis.

Cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation for heart and lung conditions and surgical procedures.

Orthopedic physical therapy for musculoskeletal injuries and conditions, such as bursitis, chronic joint pain, fractures, sprains, tendonitis, and rehabilitation after orthopedic surgery.

Hand therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, and other hand conditions.

Pediatric physical therapy to treat and manage cerebral palsy, developmental delays, muscular dystrophy, and spina bifida.

Decongestive physical therapy to drain accumulated fluid in lymphedema and other conditions. 

Pelvic floor physical therapy to rehabilitate patients with incontinence, urinary urgency, or pelvic pain.

Physical Therapists in Northeastern Tennessee

Our skilled, caring, and compassionate physical therapists at Watauga Orthopaedics aim to help you regain your function and mobility for a complete recovery and restoration of the lifestyle you enjoy.

To make an appointment for physical therapy, call us today at (423) 282-9011. You can also fill out our online appointment request form right now to schedule a visit with one of our orthopedic doctors and specialists. We look forward to serving you.