Physical Therapist and Therapy

Physical therapists assist people recovering from injuries and illnesses. They utilize different therapies to help people enjoy normal lives again. Physical therapists help accident victims, people with back pain, people recovering from heart attacks, and people struggling with disabilities such as cerebral palsy.

Therapists evaluate a person's medical history and then conduct tests to determine his or her physical abilities. Following the tests, physical therapists coordinate treatment strategies.

Physical therapists usually develop exercise programs for people recovering from physical injuries to use their muscles and improve flexibility. Eventually therapists recommend exercises designed to improve strength, balance, coordination, and endurance.

Physical therapists utilize electrical stimulation therapies and hot packs or cold compresses to reduce swelling and alleviate pain, or they can perform deep-tissue massages to relieve pain, increase circulation, and improve flexibility. Therapists also show patients how to use wheelchairs, prosthesis, and crutches.

Physical therapists keep records of their patients' progress, conduct periodic examinations, and change therapy if necessary.

Physical therapists often collaborate with other professionals, such as doctors, dentists, teachers, nurses, social workers, speech-language pathologists and audiologists, and occupational therapists.

Some physical therapists specialize in cardiopulmonary physical therapy, neurology, sports medicine, orthopedics, pediatrics and geriatrics.

Work environment. Physical therapists work in hospitals, health clinics, schools, patients' homes, and offices with exercise equipment. Physical therapists have physically demanding jobs since they often, kneel, crouch, and lift patients or heavy equipment, as well as stand for long periods of time.

In 2012, the majority of physical therapists worked 40 hour weeks, sometimes working nights and weekends to accommodate their patients' schedules, and 1 out of every 5 physical therapists worked part time hours.

Career Training and Education

Physical therapy colleges administer graduate degree programs. If this career interests you, choose a program recognized by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. About 50 percent of these schools offer doctorate degrees in physical therapy (DPTs). Additional information about careers in physical therapy can be obtained from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

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