Physical therapy: Who can benefit and how can it help?

In physical therapy, trained professionals evaluate and treat abnormal physical function related to, for example, an injury, disability, disease or condition.

According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), a physical therapist is a trained and licensed medical professional with experience in diagnosing physical abnormalities, restoring physical function and mobility, maintaining physical function, and promoting physical activity and proper function.

Licensed physical therapists can be found in a range of healthcare settings including outpatient offices, private practices, hospitals, rehab centers, nursing homes, home health, sports and fitness settings, schools, hospices, occupational settings, government agencies, and research centers.

What to expect

Senior man receiving physical therapy for arm and shoulder.
Physical therapy can help people of all ages with a range of conditions.

A physical therapist helps take care of patients in all phases of healing, from initial diagnosis through the restorative and preventive stages of recovery. Physical therapy may be a standalone option, or it may support other treatments.

Some patients are referred to a physical therapist by their doctor, but other seek therapy themselves.

Whichever way a patient come to a physical therapist, they can expect to:

Undergo a physical exam and evaluation, including a health history and certain testing procedures, including evaluation of posture, movement and flexibility, and of muscle and joint motion and performance

Receive a clinical diagnosis, prognosis, plan of care and short and long term goals

Receive physical therapy treatment and intervention based on the therapist’s evaluation and diagnosis

Receive self-management recommendations

Patients often train with a physical therapist in exercises that they can do at home, to help them function more effectively.

[woman having physical therapy]
Physical therapy can help a patient regain movement or strength after an injury or illness.

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