Physical therapy (also called physiotherapy) is a health profession that works to improve movement and mobility in people who have limited strength or range of motion because of injury, illness, or disability. PTs help to decrease pain, restore function, and prevent further injury by using exercises and treatments such as heat or cold application, massage, manipulation, and electrical stimulation. They may also teach patients how to do certain activities, such as walking with crutches or standing from a wheelchair, or aid them in finding ways to compensate for loss of limbs or other physical limitations.
Typically, individuals who are seeking PT will have been referred by their doctor. They may attend treatment at private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centres, nursing homes, public schools, or home health agencies.
At a patient’s first visit, the therapist will design an individual treatment plan based on the results of the evaluation. They will provide the person with a list of exercises to perform at home and will likely write down the order, frequency, and number of repetitions that are required. It is very important to follow these instructions closely — most of the benefit from PT comes from at-home exercise routines.
Because PTs get to spend a great deal of one-on-one time with clients, they often form connections that go beyond the patient’s injury or disability. The relationships can be beneficial for both parties, resulting in better outcomes for the client. Some PTs choose to specialise in specific areas. For example, some work exclusively with the elderly, or in caring for burns and skin injuries.