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Physical Therapy

Physical therapy was established during World War I with the inaugura­tion of the Division of Special Hospitals and Physical Reconstruction by the Surgeon General's Office. Some 2,000 reconstruction aides restored function to people with disabilities in army hospitals.

Today, physical therapists provide health care services to patients of all ages and health conditions. They work with infants with birth defects to aid motor development and functional abilities; people with burns and wounds to prevent abnormal scaling and loss of movement; survivors of strokes to regain movement, function, and independent living; patients with cancer to regain strength and relieve discomfort; patients with low back problems to reduce pain and restore function; and patients with cardiac involvement to improve endurance and achieve independence. They also provide preventive exercise programs and programs to promote general health and fitness, postural improve­ment, and industrial safety and health.

Today's physical therapists serve a dynamic, comprehensive role in health care - improving and maintaining the quality of life for millions of Americans.

As Clinicians, Physical Therapists:

  • Examine patients by performing tests and measures
  • Perform evaluations by making clinical judgments based on the data gathered during the examination
  • Establish a diagnosis by organizing evaluation results into defined clusters, syndromes, or categories to help determine appropriate intervention strategies
  • Determine a prognosis that indicates the level of optimum improvement that might be attained
  • Evaluate the success of those interventions
  • Modify treatment to effect the desired outcome
  • Provide prevention and wellness (including health promotion) programs

The "Model Definition of Physical Therapy for State Practice Acts," adopted by the American Physical Therapy Association, states that physical therapy includes:

  • Examining individuals with impairment, functional limitation, and disability or other health related conditions in order to determine a diagnosis, prognosis, and intervention.
  • Alleviating impairment and functional limitation by designing, implementing, and modifying therapeutic interventions.
  • Preventing injury, impairment, functional limitation, and disabili­ty, including the promotion and maintenance of fitness, health, and quality of life in people of all ages.
  • Engaging in consultation, education and research.

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