A Physical therapist is a health care professional who treats patients with issues limiting mobility. They are now expected to do much more than just provide treatment to patients with issues limiting mobility. PTs are expected to be fundamental health care team members who tackle prevention initiatives, such as decreasing falls for the elderly and the prevention of athletic injuries. Additionally, they are tasked with preventing movement and flexibility issues that can be brought on by chronic diseases or other debilitating health conditions.
Physical therapists work one-on-one with patients. They help them perform exercises, stretches, and ice and heat therapies. They also help patients learn to live with injuries and conditions (such as how to use crutches or a cane). Physical therapists customize treatments based on a patient’s needs and readjust them as they go along. They also record and track improvements in the patient’s health and share them with doctors.
Different Areas physical therapists specialize In
- Pediatrics: Pediatric physical therapists have special training to work with children with developmental delays or other problems that may limit functional mobility. These therapists typically work in schools or in children’s homes to provide care.
- Home care: When a patient has a problem with mobility and is unable to leave the house due to illness or lack of appropriate transportation, a physical therapist may come to the home for evaluation or treatment. These specialists may work privately or in conjunction with a local visiting nurses association.
- Back pain: Some physical therapists have specialized training in the care of low back and neck pain. These therapists typically work in outpatient clinics. A
- Hands: Some physical and occupational therapists hold a certification in hand therapy. These therapists are specialists in the treatment of the hand and wrist after injury or surgery. They typically work in outpatient clinics or hospitals.
Tips to Consider before Choosing a Physical Therapist.
- Ask your physician. Many doctors have relationships with specialists and are able to recommend a physical therapist.
- Go online. Many physical therapy clinics have websites that outline the services they offer, their hours and location, and what to expect during your therapy session.
- Check with your local hospital. Hospitals often have a dedicated outpatient physical therapy clinic onsite.
- Look for a therapist who is a good fit for you and you are comfortable with. In general, a physical therapist should be empathetic, listens, and genuinely acts as they care. It’s imperative to work with someone that you have a good rapport with, and someone you feel comfortable with.
- A physical therapist should have great manual skills: The best PTs use their hands to mobilize, catalyze and improve function that can’t be attained by stretching or strengthening alone. These hands-on skills allow scar tissue to heal more effectively, and alleviate areas of inflammation and pain. Powerful and gentle hands are the best combination.
- Should give out homework: You can’t accomplish everything in a one-hour appointment. Period. That means that, whether it’s approved strength moves, stretching, or mobility work, you are going to have to put in some time outside of your physical therapist’s office too. And your physical therapist should be giving you take-home materials to complete. If not, your physical therapist may not be giving you complete care, which can slow your progress.
- Should provide you with an individualized plan: Physical therapy is not meant to be one size fits all. Two people with ‘IT band syndrome’ may have completely different underlying causes and need to be treated accordingly, not just with blanket protocols. So be wary of a physical therapist that does not seem invested in your individual progress and goals.