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Physical Therapist

Physical therapist working with woman on leg stretches.

What is a physical therapist?

Physical therapy focuses on the evaluation, management, and prevention of disorders of human motion.

Physical therapists (PTs) are important members of the rehabilitation (rehab) team. They evaluate and provide treatment for persons with health problems and disabilities caused by injury, disease, overuse of muscles or tendons, pain, or loss of a body part.

PTs focus on restoring a person's movement (mobility) and function. They also help prevent further disability.

PTs may provide treatment and education for:

  • Mobility

  • Balance and gait retraining

  • Heat and cold therapy and massage

  • Activities of daily living (ADLs)

  • Burn care

  • Casting and splinting

  • Wheelchair, walkers, canes, and crutches

  • Muscle retraining

  • Pain management

  • Cardiovascular strengthening

  • Use of braces and splints (orthotics) and prosthetics artificial limbs (prosthetics)

  • Exercise programs

PTs work in many settings, including:

  • Hospitals

  • Nursing homes

  • Inpatient rehab centers

  • Outpatient rehab centers

  • Community and home health settings

  • Schools

  • Industrial health centers

  • Sports facilities

  • Private practice

PTs have either a master's degree or a doctorate from a school accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association. To practice, all graduates must be licensed by their state by passing a national certification exam.

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