Modern physical therapy was first established in Great Britain towards the end of the 19th century. In 1921, American physical therapists formed the first professional association called the American Women’s Physical Therapeutic Association, which later give birth to what is known today as the American Physical Therapy Association. Members include physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of physical therapy. APTA defines physical therapy as: “clinical applications in the restoration, maintenance, and promotion of optimal physical function.”

Physical therapists are also known as physiotherapists or PTs. They specialize in diagnosing, evaluating, and treating patients with movement impairments or other conditions that limit physical performance. They evaluate components of movements such as strength, flexibility, posture, balance, coordination, range of motion, general mobility, and endurance. They work in a number of healthcare facilities such as sport club clinics, orthopedic hospitals, rehab facilities, nursing homes, and private establishments. They can also provide direct in-home services to people that can foot the bill.

Physical Therapist Job Description

Physical therapists are highly educated, licensed health professionals trained to treat people of all ages and backgrounds with mobility problems or any other illness that inhibits proper movement. Primarily, individuals who have been in accidents or have disabling conditions such as arthritis, lower back pain, bone fractures, heart diseases, and head injuries turn to physical therapists for assistance.

They examine patients and develop appropriate treatment plans to manage their condition and achieve long-term health benefits.The primary focus is to promote movements, reduce pain, and prevent disability through exercise therapy (stretching, weight lifting, and walking), manual therapy (massages), and other techniques like heat, cold, water, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation. By utilizing these fitness and wellness-orientated programs, therapists are able to proactively prevent the loss of mobility in these patients.

Physical Therapist job duties includes the following:

  • Supervise the activities of physical therapy assistants
  • Evaluate a patient’s condition and develop an appropriate physical rehabilitation plan
  • Help patients to improve their mobility
  • Relieve patient’s pain using exercises, hands-on therapy, stretching, and physical therapy devices
  • Teach patients how to use physical therapy equipment
  • Help patients through their tasks and monitor their performance
  • Tell patients what they should anticipate in different stages of their recovery and how they will handle each situation
  • Educate patients and families regarding the recovery process

How to Become a Physical Therapist

To enroll in a Physical Therapist Graduate program, students must first complete an undergraduate program with a major that includes significant science coursework, such as anatomy and physiology. Depending on the post-secondary school, students applying into the graduate program will need to meet a specific GPA requirement and hospital or clinic volunteer hours. This profession has become more competitive due to an increased need for physical therapy.

There are two professional (entry-level) physical therapist education programs currently being offered: Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree (DPT) or Master of Physical Therapy Degree (MPT). The DPT program requires 3 years to complete, whereas the MPT program requires 2 to 3 years to complete. Both programs have two aspects: coursework and clinical rotation. During the coursework, students are taught biomechanics, physiology, anatomy, pharmacology, and neuroscience. The clinical rotation provides students with necessary work experience.

Physical Therapist Certification

Students must graduate from their Master’s degree or Doctor’s degree in an American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) accredited college before they can apply for a license to practice. All 50 states require students to write and pass The Nation Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) offered by Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy.

Physical Therapist Salary

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Physical Therapist Job Description Summary

  • Treats injury or dysfunction with exercises
  • Work with physical therapy assistants and aides
  • 4 years undergraduate degree as prerequisite
  • 2-3 years of graduate study
  • Must be licensed to practice
  • 36% employment growth by 2022