What is Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy is a dynamic profession with an established theoretical and scientific base and widespread clinical applications in the restoration, maintenance, and promotion of optimal physical function. Physical therapists are health care professionals who help individuals maintain, restore, and improve movement, activity, and functioning, thereby enabling optimal performance and enhancing health, well-being, and quality of life. Their services prevent, minimize, or eliminate impairments of body functions and structures, activity limitations, and participation restrictions.
Physical therapy is provided for individuals of all ages who have or may develop impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions related to (1) conditions of the musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiovascular, pulmonary, and/or integumentary systems or (2) the negative effects attributable to unique personal and environmental factors as they relate to human performance.
Physical therapists play vital roles in today's health care environment and are recognized as essential providers of rehabilitation and habilitation, performance enhancement, and prevention and risk-reduction services. Physical therapists also play important roles both in developing standards for physical therapist practice and in developing health care policy to ensure availability, accessibility, and optimal provision of physical therapy.
As clinicians, physical therapists engage in an examination process that includes taking the history including a review of systems, conducting a systems review, and performing tests and measures to identify potential and existing problems. To establish diagnoses, prognoses, and plans of care, physical therapists perform evaluations, synthesizing the examination data and determining whether the problems to be addressed are within the scope of physical therapist practice or whether a referral to another health care provider is indicated.
Based on their judgments about diagnoses and prognoses and based on individual goals, physical therapists provide interventions (the interactions
and procedures used in managing and instructing patients or clients), conduct reexaminations, modify interventions as necessary to achieve goals and outcomes, and develop and implement plans for conclusion of care.
Goals for physical therapy often relate to the capacity of individuals to do what is important to them in their daily activities and roles. Physical therapists design individualized plans of care based on clinical judgment, best available evidence, and an individual's situation and goals. They collaborate with other health care professionals to address individual needs and provide efficient and effective care across the continuum of health care settings. In addition, physical therapists provide consultation to individual clients, other health care practitioners, facilities, and organizations in assessing the need for physical therapy and the type of services needed for an individual.