Physical Therapy

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Physical therapists (PTís, called physiotherapists in much of Europe) and physical therapy assistants (PTA's) are the allied health professionals who examine, test and treat persons to enhance their maximum physical activityTheir goal is to improve how an individual functions at work and home, and promote overall fitness and health.

PT's and PT assistants work with patients to help them regain motor control, strength, physical conditioning and mobility, and return to independent living.  They provide services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease. Treatment often includes exercise for patients who have been immobilized and lack flexibility, strength, coordination/balance or endurance.  PTís also use electrical stimulation, hot packs or cold compresses, and ultrasound to relieve pain and reduce swelling, and may use traction or deep-tissue massage to relieve pain.   PTís also may teach patients to use assistive and adaptive devices such as crutches, prostheses, and wheelchairs. They may also show patients exercises to do at home to expedite their recovery and enable independence. 



 Physical therapists complete at least 4 years of college, and many have completed a master's degree (6 years of higher education) -- by 2002, all physical therapist programs seeking accreditation will be required to offer degrees at the masterís degree level and above.  All have successfully passed a State licensure examination.   There are currently about 90,000 PTís in the US.  There were 189 accredited physical therapist programs in 1999. Of the accredited programs, 24 offered bachelorís degrees, 157 offered masterís degrees, and 8 offered doctoral degrees.

  Physical Therapy Assistants (PTA's) complete 2 years of education after high school, and typically work under the direction of PT's.

  Physical Therapy Aides are trained by the institution in which he or she works, and aide PT's in service delivery.


See also the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) web site.


Copyright by Jack Winters.
For problems or questions regarding this web contact Jack Winters.
Last updated: January 17, 2001.