What is a Physical Therapist?

By | November 2, 2013

Currently, there are an estimated 115,000 physical therapists practicing the United States. Physical Therapy was established during World War I with the inauguration of the Division of Special Hospitals and Physical Reconstruction In the Surgeon General’s Office. Some 2,000 reconstruction aides restored function to people with disabilities in army hospitals and to those with Poliomyelitis.

Today, Physical Therapists provide health care services to patients of all ages and health conditions. They serve:

  • Infants with birth defects to aid motor development functional abilities:
  • Survivors of strokes to regain movement, function and independent living.
  • Patients with cancer to regain strength and relieve discomfort.
  • Patients with low back problems to reduce pain and restore function.
  • Patients with cardiac involvement to improve endurance and achieve independence.

They also provide preventative exercise programs to promote general health andposture improvement and industrial safety and health.

Today, physical therapists serve a dynamic, comprehensive role in health care improving and maintaining the quality of life for millions of Americans

As Clinicians, Physical Therapists

  • Examine patients by performing tests and measures
  • Perform evaluations by making clinical judgments based on the data gathered during the examination
  • Establish a diagnosis by organizing evaluation results into clusters, syndromes, or categories to help determine appropriate intervention strategies
  • Determine a prognosis that indicates the level optimum improvement that might be attained
  • Provide Interventions
  • Evaluate the success of the interventions
  • Modify treatment to effect the desired outcome
  • Provide prevention and wellness (including health promotion) programs
  • Consult
  • Screen
  • Educate
  • Engage in critical Inquiry
  • Serve as administrators

The “Model Definition of physical therapy for State Practice Acts,” adopted by the American Physical Therapy Association, states that physical therapy includes:

  • Examining individuals with impairment, functional limitation, and disability or other health-related conditions in order to determine a diagnosis, prognosis, and intervention.
  •  Alleviating impairment and functional limitation by designing, implementing, and modifying therapeutic interventions.
  • Preventing injury impairment, functional limitation, and disability including the promotion and maintenance of fitness, health, and quality of life in people of all ages.
  • Engaging in consultation. education, and research.