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What is Physical Therapy

The field of physical therapy is a diverse one, addressing a multitude of injuries, diseases and impairments.  These processes arise from insults to the musculoskeletal system, neurological system or any combination of the two.  Patients appropriate for referral to physical therapy range in ages from newborns to the elderly.

The main focus of any physical therapy program is to improve or restore mobility so that a person can move forward with their life and function at the highest level possible.  Physical therapy is often an appropriate alternative to surgery and pain medication. Or, it may be used as an adjunct to recovery with those interventions.  Furthermore, as an integral member of the healthcare team, physical therapists consult with other health care professionals such as surgeons, physicians, nurse practitioners, and occupational therapists to maximize recovery.

Physical therapists are highly educated medical professionals who combine science with motivation. They are cheerleaders for physical health.  In addition to helping you recover, they are responsible to educate you regarding your health and eliminate or reduce your likelihood of future problems.   Most physical therapists now graduating are doing so with doctorate level degrees.  Many more have pursued transitional doctorate degrees after achieving Master’s level degrees.  Physical therapists today practice under the premise of Evidence Based Medicine.  Evidence based medicine promotes the use of research and proven techniques to achieve the highest level of recovery possible and limit the time required to achieve your treatment goals.

A visit to a physical therapist is not complicated.  You can obtain a referral from your physician or, in many states, including Pennsylvania, you can make an appointment with a physical therapist directly.  Your initial visit to the physical therapist will consist of an initial examination including a thorough interview and physical examination. This will usually take about an hour. The impairments or limitations identified will be carefully considered with your report of functional loss and personal recovery goals.  Then, your physical therapist will develop an appropriate plan of care, usually including interventions such as stretching and strengthening, ultrasound, manual therapy, electrotherapy, activity specific training and education.