Physical therapists provide services that help relieve pain, restore function, improve mobility, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease. They restore, maintain, and promote overall fitness and health.
Physical therapists treat athletes, accident victims, people with disabling conditions (such as low back pain, arthritis, heart disease, fractures, head injuries), and people who want to maintain their health. More and more physical therapists work with people who want to prevent injuries.
Therapists examine patients' medical histories, test and measure strength, range of motion, balance and coordination, posture and motor function. They develop treatment plans describing a treatment strategy, its purpose, and anticipated outcome. Treatment often includes exercise for patients who have been immobilized and lack flexibility, strength, or endurance. Gait analysis helps physical therapists to better determine a patient's walking or running mechanics. Orthotics may be prescribed to help correct genetics or misalignments brought about by years of improper posture or misalignment.
Physical therapists often consult and practice with a variety of other healthcare professionals, such as physicians, nurses, educators, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and audiologists.