What is a Physical Therapist: Clinician, Exercise Coach, or Miracle Worker?

A good physical therapist (PT) can make you work, sweat, and cheer at the same time.

That may not sound totally positive to you, but a physical therapist should be a key member of your health care team if your goals include:

  • Regaining movement
  • Reducing pain
  • Restoring daily function
  • Preventing disability

A physical therapist is much more than an exercise coach; they are highly educated, licensed health care professionals who often are able to help clients avoid expensive surgery or long-term prescription medications. Although exercise and training are parts of physical therapy treatment, your PT has the specialized medical expertise to know when to encourage you to do more than you thought you could do, and then push you even further.

Occasionally, people may experience physical therapy as frustrating or uncomfortable. After a physical therapy session, you may feel sore or exhausted. But with expert PT oversight, you can be assured these are natural parts of the healing and strengthening process that will help you get back to work after you have injured your back, or learn to walk again after a stroke. A physical therapist cheers and encourages you to keep on going to the best of your ability. That’s why some say a physical therapist is a miracle worker.

Who are physical therapists?

Physical therapists must complete six to seven years of university education. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, recent graduates will have a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. After that they are required to pass a state exam so that they may practice as a licensed physical therapist. PTs enjoy working with people. They spend most of their day providing hands-on treatment and empowering people to take control of their own health and healing.

What do physical therapists do?

A physical therapist’s job involves three main activities:

  • Examination
  • Diagnosis
  • Implementation of a treatment plan

 The physical examination looks at your:

  • Muscle function
  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Range of motion
  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Posture
  • Respiration
  • Skin integrity
  • Motor function
  • Quality of life
  • Activities of daily living

The physical therapist helps determine a diagnosis, then works in concert with your doctor as part of your health care team as you progress through your treatment program. Your PT often will work just as hard as you to help you strengthen and heal your body through therapeutic exercise and manual therapy.

 Depending on need, your health care team also may include a:

  • Physician
  • Occupational therapist
  • Speech-language pathologist

Physical therapist assistant or physical therapist aide

Where do physical therapists work?

You might expect to see a physical therapist in a hospital or rehabilitation center, but over 80 percent of PTs actually work in:

  • Private practice
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Home health agencies
  • Schools
  • Sports and fitness facilities
  • Industrial workplace and occupational settings
  • Hospice facilities
  • Nursing homes and assisted living facilities

 A physical therapist may specialize in a field such as orthopedics or geriatrics, which can determine the setting in which they administer treatment.

Why would I need a physical therapist?

Your doctor may refer you to a PT for help with:

  • Recovery from a sports injury
  • Rehabilitation after a stroke, accident, or surgery
  • Improving balance and preventing falls
  • Dealing with chronic pain or discomfort
  • Strengthening your pelvic floor after giving birth
  • Managing heart disease or arthritis
  • Gaining better bowel or bladder control
  • Learning how to use an artificial limb
  • Adjusting to a new cane or walker

Physical therapists work with people of all ages and health conditions—from babies born prematurely to the elderly; from those with limited mobility to elite athletes; from people with brain injuries to back injuries, and anything in between.

What conditions do physical therapists treat?

A PT can help whenever you are having trouble moving comfortably, are experiencing pain, have lost function, or are at risk for disability.

Some of the conditions typically treated include:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Cardiovascular event such as heart attack
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Back pain
  • Rotator cuff tear
  • Stroke
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Brain injury
  • Developmental delay
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Sports-related injuries
  • Incontinence
  • Wound care
  • Burn care
  • Diabetic ulcer
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Alzheimer's disease 

Working with a PT will help you get up and moving again. Your physical therapist will push you, encourage you, and help you. You probably will work, sweat, and cheer. But in the end, you will thank them for working beside you.

Ask your physician today if physical therapy can help you enjoy a higher quality of life. With a doctor’s referral, BAYADA can provide the right PT to meet your needs. Click the link below to speak to a BAYADA representative and learn more!

Home Health Care in Denver, CO

About the Author

Founded in 1975 by Founder and Chairman Mark Baiada, BAYADA has become a trusted leader in providing a full range of clinical care and support services at home for children and adult of all ages. Since then, BAYADA has remained true to Mark’s commitment to purpose by finding, training, and supporting employing who take pride and find joy in healing and helping.

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