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
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
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)
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.