Physical therapy refers to a branch of allied health professions, concerned with the maintenance of the human body. This profession relies on medical health personnel referred to as physical therapists or physiotherapists. Physical therapists maintain, promote, and restore patients’ health through medical diagnosis, physical examinations, prognosis, patient education, management, physical rehabilitation and disease prevention.
Physical therapy attends to the ailments or injuries that limit a patient’s ability to carry out normal movement and ability to perform functional tasks in their daily lives. Physical therapists usually make use of a person’s medical history and physical exams to arrive at a diagnosis which aids establishment of a health management plan. If need arises, establishing this plan may include use of lab results and imaging findings such as CT scan, MRI results or X-rays. Electromyograms and nerve conduction velocity testing may also prove useful.
Physiotherapists work with individuals to ensure loss of mobility and normal physical activities does not occur, by adapting fitness and wellness-oriented programs necessary for healthier and more active lifestyles, providing health services to the general population to build up and ensuring functional stability through proper fitness maintenance.
Physical Therapy as a Career
This professional career entails various specialties, each having a highly significant importance in the physical well-being of individuals. These specialties include orthopedics, neurology, geriatrics, pediatrics, musculoskeletal, cardiopulmonary, sports medicine, women’s health, clinical electrophysiology, oncology and wound care.
The most popular physical therapy specialty. This specialty involves treatment of conditions relating to bones, tendons, muscles, ligaments and joints. PTs in this specialty may encounter a large number of patients suffering from arthritis, joint dislocations, bone fractures, muscular dystrophy or patients having sprained muscles or ligaments. Physical therapists administer treatment using stretching methods, electrical muscle stimulation, hot and cold application (for example, ice packs) and exercise.
Neurological physiotherapists treat nervous conditions and problems associated with the spinal system. Patients may come in with various conditions, which include cerebral palsy, sciatica, cervical radiculopathy, and spinal cord injuries.
Physical therapists in this specialty work with the elderly. Physiotherapists help to ease pain from arthritis, general joint stiffness and osteoporosis. Geriatric physical therapists aim to help these elderly patients remain as healthy and active as possible. Some patients may have incurable diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. These diseases limit daily activities, hence, physical therapists help geriatric patients improve stability and build muscle strength. Also physiotherapists enlighten caregivers and family members on how to provide necessary care and assistance.
- Women’s health
Physiotherapists can also specialize in women’s health, which include certain conditions women face and the treatment of women at different stages of their life. Physical therapists in this specialty comprehend female musculoskeletal systems and how women react differently to common problems than men. The main aim of physiotherapists includes helping maintain and promoting women’s health throughout their lifespan.
- Clinical Electrophysiology
This specialty comprises two diverse forms of treatment: wound treatment and electrotherapy. Electrotherapy refers to the use of electromyography (EMG). Electromyography involves the use of electrodes to determine muscle and nerve cell health. EMG can measure the electrical activity within a muscle. With the aid of EMG, physiotherapists in this specialty can treat neuromuscular disorders such as Myasthenia gravis, Guillain-Barre syndrome and muscular dystrophy.
Electrotherapy also assists wound treatment. It speeds up healing process of common wounds such as lacerations, post-surgical incisions and diabetic ulcers. Low-intensity direct current promotes wound healing via two processes:
- Stimulating the migration of clotting factors (such as fibroblasts) and keratinocytes to the wounded area.
- Its antimicrobial effect.
- Sports medicine
Physical therapists involved in this specialty help to relieve and heal pain and injuries sustained while engaging in athletic activities. Common sport injuries include torn rotator cuffs, ACL tears, tennis elbow, jumper’s knee, hip flexor strains and concussions. Treatment of such injuries usually involve heat or cold application, stretching, hydrotherapy and manual therapy. For sports therapy, patients include athletes who may want to maintain their peak performance, so restoring muscle strength and agility forms the area of focus for physiotherapists in this specialty.
Physical therapy has remained effective for improving results, both in terms of pain and normal functioning. Several studies have shown the effects of physical therapy in treating numerous illnesses and injuries; lumbar spinal stenosis, carpal tunnel syndrome and osteoarthritis inclusive.
College of St Scholastica (2020). https://www.css.edu/about/blog/9-physical-therapy-specialties-to-pursue-in-your-career/
Clark M. (2016) “Physical Therapist (PT) Education Overview”.