Vast changes are occurring in the nation’s health care delivery system with greater demand for services and limited resources. The physical therapy profession is also changing by keeping pace with rapid advances in science and technology and increasing the requirements for entry-level professionals. This has positioned Physical Therapists as the medical provider of choice in dealing with any type of movement dysfunction.

Although the physical therapy profession has been around since World War I, many do not fully understand what it is physical therapists do.  Many people think of physical therapists as the trainer that rehabs professional athletes and others think of therapists as glorified massage therapists.  Well, today’s physical therapist is a far cry from the therapist of the past.  Physical therapists employ a variety of treatment techniques most often involving therapeutic exercise and manual techniques to restore the normal joint mechanics/functioning of the body as a whole to promote normal movement.  Today’s physical therapists attain their knowledge and skills through extensive academic and clinical education.  To enter the professional physical therapists must complete a four-year undergraduate program and then complete a post-baccalaureate degree program (MSPT, MPT) or a clinical doctorate (DPT) of 3 to 3 and a half years in length, and finally must complete a state licensing exam. The physical therapist education program allows the PT to come out of school with the skills to treat people of all ages and across medical disciplines from orthopedics, neurology, pediatrics, and burn / wound care.  Once out of school therapists can become Board Certified in a specific area which recognizes an individual as having advanced clinical knowledge, experience, and skills in a particular area of practice.  There are currently over 200,000 PTs practicing in the US but only around 12,000 Board-certified Orthopedic clinical Specialists in the US.

Physical therapists are involved in all aspects of medical care.  They provide health care services to patients of all ages and health conditions.  Physical Therapists provide care to infants with birth defects to aid motor development and functional abilities; people with burns and wounds to prevent abnormal scarring and loss of movement; survivors of stroke to regain movement, function, and independent living; patients with cancer to regain strength and relieve discomfort; patients with low back/neck problems to reduce pain and restore function, and patients with cardiac problems to improve endurance and achieve independence.  Physical Therapists also provide preventive exercise programs to promote general health and fitness, postural improvement, and worksite safety and health.

Physical Therapists serve a dynamic, comprehensive role in health care – improving and maintaining the quality of life for millions of Americans.  If you have a problem that you think would benefit from physical therapy speak to your doctor and he can give you a prescription for physical therapy services that you can take to the provider of your choice.

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