Physical Therapy or Physiotherapy
Physical therapy (or physiotherapy), often abbreviated PT, is a health care profession. Physical therapy is concerned with identifying and maximizing quality of life and movement potential within the spheres of promotion, prevention, diagnosis, treatment/intervention and rehabilitation. This encompasses physical, psychological, emotional, and social well being.
Physical therapy involves the interaction between physical therapist, patients/clients, other health care professionals, families, care givers, and communities in a process where movement potential is assessed and diagnosed, goals are agreed upon, using knowledge and skills unique to physical therapists. Physical therapy is performed by a physical therapist (PT) or physiotherapist (physio), and sometimes services are provided by a physical therapist assistant (PTA) acting under their direction. PTs are healthcare professionals who diagnose and treat individuals of all ages, from newborns to the very oldest, who have medical problems or other health-related conditions, illnesses, or injuries that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities as well as they would like in their daily lives. PTs use an individual’s history and physical examination to arrive at a diagnosis and establish a management plan and, when necessary, incorporate the results of laboratory and imaging studies. Electrodiagnostic testing (e.g.,electromyograms and nerve conduction velocity testing) may also be of assistance. PT management commonly includes prescription of or assistance with specific exercises, manual therapy, education, manipulation and other interventions. In addition, PTs work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles, providing services to individuals and populations to develop, maintain and restore maximum movement and functional ability throughout the lifespan. This includes providing services in circumstances where movement and function are threatened by aging, injury, disease or environmental factors. Functional movement is central to what it means to be healthy.
Physical therapy has many specialties including sports, wound care, EMG, cardiopulmonary, geriatrics, neurologic, orthopaedic and pediatrics. PTs practice in many settings, such as outpatient clinics or offices, health and wellness clinics, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, skilled nursing facilities, extended care facilities, private homes, education and research centers, schools, hospices, industrial and this workplaces or other occupational environments, fitness centers and sports training facilities.
Physical therapists also practice in non-patient care roles such as health policy, health insurance, health care administration and as health care executives. Physical therapists are involved in the medical-legal field serving as experts, performing peer review and independent medical examinations.
Education qualifications vary greatly by country. The span of education ranges from some countries having little formal education to others having doctoral degrees and post doctoral residencies and fellowships.
World Confederation of Physical Therapy (WCPT) recognises there is considerable diversity in the social, economic, cultural, and political environments in which physical therapist education is conducted throughout the world. WCPT recommends physical therapist entry-level educational programs be based on university or university-level studies, of a minimum of four years, independently validated and accredited as being at a standard that accords graduates full statutory and professional recognition.  WCPT acknowledges there is innovation and variation in program delivery and in entry-level qualifications, including first university degrees (Bachelors/Baccalaureate/Licensed or equivalent), Masters and Doctorate entry qualifications. What is expected is that any program should deliver a curriculum that will enable physical therapists to attain the knowledge, skills, and attributes described in these guidelines. Professional education prepares physical therapists to be autonomous practitioners, that may work in collaboration with other members of the health care team.
Physical therapist entry-level educational programs integrate theory, evidence and practice along a continuum of learning. This begins with admission to an accredited physical therapy program and ending with retirement from active practice.
208 of 213 accredited physical therapy programs in the US are accredited at the doctoral level offering the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree (DPT)
The physical therapist professional curriculum includes content and learning experiences in the clinical sciences (e.g., content about the cardiovascular, pulmonary, endocrine, metabolic, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, integumentary, musculoskeletal, and neuromuscular systems and the medical and surgical conditions frequently seen by physical therapists).
Curriculum related to Patient/Client Management includes:
Because the body of knowledge of physical therapy is quite large, some PTs specialize in a specific clinical area. While there are many different types of physical therapy, the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties list eight specialist certifications.
Cardiovascular & Pulmonary
Cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation respiratory practitioners and physical therapists treat a wide variety of individuals with cardiopulmonary disorders or those who have had cardiac or pulmonary surgery. Primary goals of this specialty include increasing endurance and functional independence. Manual therapy is used in this field to assist in clearing lung secretions experienced with cystic fibrosis. Disorders, including heart attacks, post coronary bypass surgery, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pulmonary fibrosis, treatments can benefit from cardiovascular and pulmonary specialized physical therapists.
This specialty area encompasses electrotherapy/physical agents, electrophysiological evaluation (EMG/NCV), physical agents, and wound management.
Geriatric physical therapy covers a wide area of issues concerning people as they go through normal adult aging but is usually focused on the older adult. There are many conditions that affect many people as they grow older and include but are not limited to the following: arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, hip and joint replacement, balance disorders, incontinence, etc. Geriatric physical therapists specialize in treating older adults.
Integumentary (treatment of conditions involving the skin and related organs). Common conditions managed include wounds and burns. Physical therapists utilize surgical instruments, mechanical lavage, dressings and topical agents to debride necrotic tissue and promote tissue healing. Other commonly used interventions include exercise, edema control, splinting, and compression garments.
Neurological physical therapy is a field focused on working with individuals who have a neurological disorder or disease. These include Alzheimer’s disease, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), ALS, brain injury, cerebral palsy,multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, and stroke. Common impairments associated with neurologic conditions include impairments of vision, balance, ambulation, activities of daily living, movement, muscle strength and loss of functional independence. Physiotherapy can address many of these impairments and aid in restoring and maintaining function, slowing disease progression, and improving quality of life.
In layman’s terms, neurological massage is directed toward correcting and healing out-of-normative body systems, unlike traditional massages, such as Swedish massage, that are directed toward comfort and relaxation.
Orthopedic physical therapists diagnose, manage, and treat disorders and injuries of the musculoskeletal systemincluding rehabilitation after orthopaedic surgery. This specialty of physical therapy is most often found in the out-patient clinical setting. Orthopedic therapists are trained in the treatment of post-operative orthopedic procedures, fractures, acute sports injuries, arthritis, sprains, strains, back and neck pain, spinal conditions and amputations.
Joint and spine mobilization/manipulation, therapeutic exercise, neuromuscular reeducation, hot/cold packs, andelectrical muscle stimulation (e.g., cryotherapy, iontophoresis, electrotherapy) are modalities often used to expedite recovery in the orthopedic setting. Additionally, an emerging adjunct to diagnosis and treatment is the use ofsonography for diagnosis and to guide treatments such as muscle retraining. Those who have suffered injury or disease affecting the muscles, bones, ligaments, or tendons will benefit from assessment by a physical therapist specialized in orthopedics.
Pediatric physical therapy assists in early detection of health problems and uses a wide variety of modalities to treat disorders in the pediatric population. These therapists are specialized in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of infants, children, and adolescents with a variety of congenital, developmental, neuromuscular, skeletal, or acquired disorders/diseases. Treatments focus on improving gross and fine motor skills, balance and coordination, strength and endurance as well as cognitive and sensory processing/integration. Children with developmental delays, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, or torticollis may be treated by pediatric physical therapists.
Physical therapists can be involved in the care of athletes from recreational to professional and Olympians. This area of practice includes athletic injury management, including acute care, treatment and rehabilitation, prevention, and education. Pyhsical therapists are also active in sports medicine programs.
Women’s health physical therapy addresses women’s issues related to child birth, and post partum. These conditions include lymphedema, osteoporosis, pelvic pain, prenatal and post partum periods, and urinary incontinence.