Physical therapy is a non-invasive healthcare practice that utilizes exercise, stretching, massage, ultrasound, water, heat, and ice treatments in order to improve muscular and joint function and reduce pain.
While many of the methods used by physical therapists can be traced to ancient therapeutic procedures, the profession of physical therapy began gaining recognition in the American medical community during World War I. Today, physical therapists strive to educate clients about proper posture, stretches, and strengthening techniques; to promote healing in clients by alleviating pain, increasing muscular flexibility, and building muscle strength; and to reduce the risk of and/or manage repeat injuries.
A client should wear comfortable clothing when visiting a physical therapist. The initial visit, which usually lasts an hour, begins with the physical therapist taking the client’s medical history. Then, through observation of the client’s strength, mobility, balance, coordination, and heart and respiration rates, the physical therapist assesses the client’s condition. After making a diagnosis, the physical therapist sets goals for the client and typically initiates treatment during the first visit. Treatment will be individualized based upon the client’s needs and progress. The physical therapist may occasionally touch the client or advise the client to wear special equipment (shoes, braces, crutches, etc.) to perform specific treatments. The client may be asked to repeat exercises at home, and multiple sessions are typically required for complete therapeutic effect.
Physical therapy can be used to restore muscle function after surgeries and to treat injuries, chronic pain, incontinence, women’s health issues, and many other conditions.