Nature of work
Physical therapists provide service that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease. They restore, maintain, and promote overall fitness and health. Therapists examine patients' medical histories and then test and measure the patients' strength, range of motion, balance, and coordination. They also determine patients' ability to be independent and reintegrate into the community or work place after injury or illness. Next, physical therapists develop treatment plans describing a treatment strategy, its purpose and its anticipated outcome. Physical therapist's assistants, under the direction and supervision of a physical therapist, may be involved in implementing treatment plans with patients. Treatment often includes exercise for patients who have been immobilized and lack flexibility, strength , or endurance. Physical therapists encourage patients to use their own muscles to increase their flexibility and their range of motion before finally advancing to other exercises that improve strength, balance, coordination, and endurance.
Physical therapists also use electrical stimulation, hot packs, or cold compresses, and ultrasound to relieve pain and reduce swelling. They also may use traction or deep tissue massage to relieve pain. As treatment continues, physical therapists document the patient's progress, conduct periodic examinations, and modify treatments when necessary. Some physical therapists treat a wide range of ailments; others specialize in areas such as pediatrics, geriatrics, orthopedics, sports medicine, neurology, and cardiopulmonary physical therapy.
Physical therapists practice in hospitals, clinics, and private offices that have specially equipped facilities, or they treat patients in hospital rooms, homes or schools. In 2002, most full-time physical therapists worked a 40-hour week; some worked evenings and weekends to fit their patients' schedules. More than 1in 5 physical therapists worked part time. The job can be physically demanding because therapists often have...