What Is Physical Therapy?
Your doctor might suggest this type of treatment if you’ve had an injury or illness that makes it hard to do daily tasks.
Physical therapy (PT) is care that aims to ease pain and help you function, move, and live better. You may need it to:
- Relieve pain
- Improve movement or ability
- Prevent or recover from a sports injury
- Prevent disability or surgery
- Rehab after a stroke, accident, injury, or surgery
- Work on balance to prevent a slip or fall
- Manage a chronic illness like diabetes, heart disease, or arthritis
- Recover after you give birth
- Control your bowels or bladder
- Adapt to an artificial limb
- Learn to use assistive devices like a walker or cane
- Get a splint or brace
People of all ages benefit from physical therapy. It can treat a variety of health problems.
What Is a Physical Therapist?
These licensed health professionals engage in specific graduate training in physical therapy. You may hear them called PTs or physiotherapists.
As of 2016, to be eligible to sit for the national exam, you need to graduate from an accredited higher education institution with a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. An additional state exam must also be passed to earn a license.
Physical therapists evaluate your condition and develop a care plan that guides your therapy. They may perform hands-on treatments for your symptoms. They also teach you special exercises to help you move and function better.
In most states, you can go directly to a physical therapist without a referral from your doctor. Or your doctor might prescribe it. Check your insurance policy to see if you need a prescription to cover the cost.
If you have a serious illness or injury, a PT won’t take the place of other doctors, but they will work with your doctors and other health care professionals to guide treatments. You’ll feel better and you’ll be more likely to get back full function in the area being treated, and in most cases, faster than without the guidance of a PT.
PTs often have assistants. They’re also trained to do many types of physical treatments.