Physical therapists provide services that help patients restore function,
improve mobility and relieve pain. Their patients include accident victims
and individuals with disabling conditions such as lower back pain, arthritis,
heart disease, fractures, head injuries and cerebral palsy.
Physical therapists use various methods to help their patients, including
therapeutic exercise, massage, hydrotherapy and manipulations. Things like
ultrasonic and microwave machines, infrared and ultraviolet lamps, and laser
equipment are also used.
Physical therapists are involved in all aspects of patient care. They design
the treatment programs and assess the patient's physical abilities and progress.
They maintain statistical and clinical records, confer with other health-care
professionals and often develop and implement health promotion programs.
You'll find physical therapists working in hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation
centers and extended care facilities. They may also have their own clinics.
They may specialize in neurology, orthopedics, oncology or pediatrics, or
in the treatment of specific disorders or injuries such as cardiovascular
disorders, burns or sports injuries.
Physical therapists are sometimes called physiotherapists. "[Both] work
to help people retain optimal functioning -- it doesn't matter much what you
call us," says physical therapist Anne Howard.
An average workweek for a physical therapist consists of the standard 40
hours, but this may include some evenings and weekends.
Physical strength and fitness is a must for anyone considering a career
in physical therapy. You may have to kneel, stoop, bend, lift, crouch and
stand for very long periods of time. Lifting patients or aiding them in turning,
walking or standing is also often required, as is moving heavy equipment.
Although a physical therapist works with bones, muscles and ligaments,
the whole patient is important. So you really have to enjoy working with people
to do this job.
If you are interested in becoming a physical therapist, says physical therapist
Randy Goodman, you should get your basic first aid ticket and then contact
a local physical therapist to see if you can help volunteer with a sports
team. With the sports team, you will be able to help tape players and learn
Another suggestion is to do volunteer work with disabled athletes or Special
Many communities now have organizations working with disabled children.
Physical therapy is often a big part of these people's lives.
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