For people who have had a stroke, sports injury, or debilitating accident, loss of simple functions such as walking, talking, or even lifting an arm or finger can be devastating. Luckily there are health care professionals that specialize in helping people to achieve their strength, movement, and coordination. A physical therapist is one such health care professional, and they can be a miracle worker to those who have disabilities due to illness, injury, or accident.
A physical therapist works with patients to determine what their injuries or disabilities are, and then develops an exercise program that will allow them to regain use of functions that have been lost. The physical therapist may focus on areas to increase a patient's strength, range of motion, coordination, and endurance, and also seeks to prevent permanent injury and relieve pain through a variety of exercises. Patients will visit the physical therapist several times a week for exercises and evaluation, and will often be given exercises to perform at home.
The physical therapist will typically prescribe the use of devices, prosthetics, or other appliances that will help accelerate healing, or allow a patient to carry out normal activities. They will work with the patient, and show him / her how to use the device in the correct manner. A physical therapist will also monitor progress at each visit, and work with the patient's other doctors to ensure that they are apprised of progress or issues.
Therapy can often be slow, painstaking work, but to be able to regain lost functions such as speech, walking, and movement can be tremendously warmening. A good physical therapist is able to motivate and inspire patients to continue their exercises and progress, even if they have difficult disabilities to overcome.
To become a physical therapist, a person must have a bachelor's degree, and must then graduate from a Physical Therapy school to obtain their doctor of physical therapy degree (DPT). Physical Therapy schools combine clinical work with regular coursework, and most students attend about 4 years. To become a licensed practitioner, they must pass state boards in the state they wish to be licensed in. Physical Therapy programs are very competitive, so undergraduates should maintain a high grade point average, and try to get work experience in the field.
A physical therapist can treat a variety of needs, while others may specialize in certain areas such as Sports Therapy, Geriatrics, Pediatrics, or Neurology, obtaining additional training and certification.
The field of Physical Therapy can be both very challenging and very rewarding for both the patient and the Physical Therapist. The schooling and breadth of knowledge needed by the physical therapist is extensive, but will be well utilized by the patients requiring physical therapy to recover from injury and illness.