Physical Therapy is Not a Specific Treatment
We often see reference to “physical therapy” as though it was a specific form of treatment. For example, “I had physical therapy for my back pain…” Physical therapy is essentially care provided by a licensed physical therapist. Physical therapists have many intervention tools available to them, including but not limited to: exercise therapy, manual therapy, physical modalities (electrotherapy, ultrasound), patient education, traction, aquatic therapy, and neuromuscular re-education.
So the better way to think about physical therapy is to explore the role of the physical therapist as a member of the healthcare team. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) describes the physical therapist as follows:
Physical therapists (PTs) are movement experts who optimize quality of life through prescribed exercise, hands-on care, and patient education. Physical therapists teach patients how to prevent or manage their condition so that they will achieve long-term health benefits. PTs examine each individual and develop a plan, using treatment techniques to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. In addition, PTs work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness- and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles.
All physical therapists today are educated at the doctoral level. Advancements in education have propelled physical therapists to a more prominent role in healthcare. People can now see physical therapists without the need of a medical referral. When you see a physical therapist for a problem, you will receive a thorough evaluation, a diagnosis and a comprehensive treatment plan.
Physical Therapy is a growing profession. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of physical therapists will increase 36% between 2014 and 2024. This reflects in part the increased demand for conservative orthopedic healthcare providers.
Marcia Spoto PT, DC, OCS