Known by the abbreviation PT, physical therapy is a health profession that aims to improve movement and mobility in patients with impaired functioning. A physical therapist (known as a physiotherapist in some countries) can help patients recover from injuries and illnesses such as spinal cord injuries, strokes, muscular dystrophy, and arthritis.
A PT’s work is physically demanding, and some jobs require them to lift patients who may be very heavy. However, a good physiotherapist will use their hands-on skills and education to heal the body and mind, rather than simply treat symptoms of illness or injury.
Physical therapists can be found in many settings, including private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, and school-based programs. Many also have specialties such as women’s health, treating prenatal and postpartum musculoskeletal conditions like pelvic pain or sciatica, or treating patients with osteoporosis.
When a patient sees a PT, the therapist will examine the patient and determine the best course of treatment. The therapist will create an individualized plan with goals, and recommend exercises that are appropriate for the patient’s condition. The therapist will also educate the patient on proper movements, so that they can avoid aggravating their injury or cause additional damage.
The therapist will often demonstrate the at-home exercises during the first session, and the patient will be asked to follow the therapist’s instructions closely for best results. It is important to stick to the plan, as most of the benefit comes from following the therapist’s advice regarding exercise, timing, and frequency.