Physical therapy aims to help patients restore movement and, function, improve health and decrease pain. Therapists licensed to provide physical therapy evaluations and interventions apply treatment. Physical therapist assistants may also carry out procedures under the supervision of a physical therapist.
Physical therapists help rehabilitate patients suffering from a wide range of conditions that hamper activities they enjoy or need to perform. Although physical therapists often work in clinical settings, they do not strictly work with patients requiring rehabilitation. However, they do educate, consult, and work with clients who wish to improve their health and physical performance.
Doctors of Physical Therapy (DPT) typically attend school for three years after completing a Bachelor’s degree. Training includes, but is not limited to, the basic sciences, clinical reasoning, medical screening, motor control, biomechanics, kinesiology, health, and wellness. Trainees gain competency in pediatric, geriatric, cardiopulmonary and, neurologic physical therapy, as well as sports and orthopedic rehabilitation.
Post-professional clinical residencies and fellowships exist to prepare the DPT for specialization in an area of practice such as orthopedics. Typically, a physical therapy residency will prepare the resident to become a board-certified clinical specialist through the American Board of Physical Therapy specialists (ABPTS). A fellowship involves focused training in a sub-specialty area of practice.
Do You Need a Referral?
No! In Pennsylvania, you can be seen by a direct access physical therapist without referral by a physician. The therapist does not make a medical diagnosis but is qualified to determine if you need physical therapy or referral to a physician.
The patient may be seen in physical therapy for 30 days without a referral under PA direct access laws. If the patient requires more treatment, he or she will be referred to a physician.
Choosing Your Physical Therapist
The patient is the most important part of the healthcare team and has the right to choose a physical therapist. The patient is not obliged to receive physical therapy in any specific facility.
The APTA Web site www.apta.org is a valuable resource if you need more information on physical therapy.