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Encyclopedia > Physical Therapy

Physical therapy (or physiotherapy[1]) is the provision of services to people and populations to develop, maintain and restore maximum movement and functional ability throughout the lifespan. It includes the provision of services in circumstances where movement and function are threatened by the process of aging or that of injury or disease. The method of physical therapy sees full and functional movement as at the heart of what it means to be healthy.

Physical therapy is concerned with identifying and maximizing movement potential, within the spheres of promotion, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. It involves the interaction between physical clients, families and care givers, in a process of assessing movement potential and in establishing agreed upon goals and objectives using knowledge and skills unique to physical therapists.

The physical therapists’ distinctive view of the body and its movement needs and potential is central to determining a diagnosis and an intervention strategy and is consistent whatever the setting in which practice is undertaken. These settings will vary in relation to whether physical therapy is concerned with health promotion, prevention, treatment or rehabilitation.[2]



Physical therapy interventions may include:

"Spinal and extremity manipulation; therapeutic exercise; electrotherapeutic and mechanical agents; functional training; provision of aids and appliances; patient education and counseling; documentation and coordination, and communication. Intervention may also be aimed at prevention of impairments, functional limitations, disability and injury including the promotion and maintenance of health, quality of life, and fitness in all ages and populations."


Physical therapy has its origins in ancient history, It is reported as a form of manual therapy in China circa 2500 BC. Hippocrates described massage and hydrotherapy in 460 BC. For other uses, see Hippocrates (disambiguation). ...

However, even before that the need for physical (manual) handling of patients body was well understood and advocated in "Ayurveda" - the oldest medical system known. A tradition of Ayurvedic Therapists still exists in India and is an integral part of Health care. Shirodhara, one of the techniques of Ayurveda Ayurveda (Devanagari: ) or Ayurvedic medicine is an ancient system of health care that is native to the Indian subcontinent. ...

Modern physical therapy

The modern practice of physical therapy was developed in London in 1896, believing hospital patients needed to be mobilized on a regular basis in order to maintain adequate muscle function and mobility. This special interest group grew rapidly and in 1920 the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy was formed in the Country of United Kingdom. Similar organizations were developed in other countries, including the USA.

The care and rehabilitation of the large numbers of amputees resulting from the World Wars of the early 20th century, as well as care of patients suffering from diseases such as polio galvanized the development of physical therapy worldwide. One of its principal advocates was Sister Elizabeth Kenny, an Australian nurse who made a significant impact on the treatment of polio during the 1930s and 1940s. There have been two World Wars, now more commonly known as World War I or First World War (from 1914 to 1918), and World War II or Second World War (from 1939 to 1945). ... Poliomyelitis (polio), or infantile paralysis, is a viral paralytic disease. ... Elizabeth Kenny (1950) Sister Elizabeth Kenny (20 September 1880 - 20 November 1952) was an Australian bush nurse famous for her innovative treatment of Poliomyelitis (polio). ...

Physical therapists

Physical therapists (PTs) are health care professionals who evaluate and manage health conditions for people of all ages. They may use the title "Dr" as some complete doctor programs. Typically individuals consult a PT for the management of medical problems or other health-related conditions that; cause pain, limit their ability to move, and limit the performance of functional activities. PTs also help prevent health conditions through prevention, restoration of function and through fitness and wellness programs that achieve healthy and active lifestyles. PTs evaluate individuals, diagnose conditions, and develop management plans using treatment techniques that promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. They provide care in hospitals, clinics, schools, sports facilities, and more.

Physical therapy assessment

A physical therapist will initially conduct a subjective examination (interview) of a patient's medical history, and then go on to the objective assessment (physical examination). The subjective examination is guided by the presenting system and complaint, and the objective assessment is in turn guided by the history.

This semistructured process is used to rule out serious pathology (so called red flags), establish functional limitations, establish the diagnosis, guide therapy, and establish a baseline for monitoring progress. As such the objective exam will then use certain quantifiable measurements to both guide diagnosis and for progress monitoring. These depend upon the system (and area) being managed, e.g. a musculoskeletal exam may involve, inter alia, assessment of joint range of motion, muscle power, neurological assessment, motor control, and posture, whilst a cardiopulmonary assessment may involve lung auscultation and exercise physiology testing. In some countries a physical therapist may order diagnostic imaging tests such as x-rays and MRIs to obtain more information about a patient's presenting condition and determine the treatment plan including referral to other practitioners. Physical therapists may also perform electromyography and nerve conduction testing to aid in the diagnosis of muscle and nerve disorders. Red flag is a semi-official term to denote various attention and awareness indicators and signals, both explicit and implicit. ... Auscultation is the technical term for listening to the internal sounds of the body, usually using a stethoscope. ...

Physical therapy treatment

Guided by the assessment findings, the physical therapist will then develop and facilitate a treatment plan. Aside from the various physiotherapeutic techniques involved in therapy, the treatment regime may include prescribing and advice regarding assistive technology including mobility aids, standing frames, and walking devices. The physical therapist should consider functional progress; and include ongoing review and refinement. Patient education is a key aspect of all treatment plans. Assistive Technology (AT) is a generic term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices and the process used in selecting, locating, and using them. ... A standing frame (also known as a stand, stander, standing technology, standing aid, standing device, standing box, tilt table) is assistive technology used by a child or adult who uses a wheelchair for mobility. ...

It is difficult to explore the many aspects of physiotherapeutic treatment options, especially considering their ongoing development in the face of an increasing research base. Nonetheless, some examples of treatment options are listed below.

Musculoskeletal (Orthopaedic) physical therapy

Musculoskeletal (Orthopaedic) physiotherapists are able to diagnose, treat and using the range of techniques outlined below help with prevention of pain/pathology.

Various therapeutic physical therapy modalities are available, including exercise prescription (strength, motor control, stretching and endurance), manual therapy techniques like joint mobilization/manipulation, soft tissue massage, and various forms of so-called "electrophysical agents" (such as cryotherapy, heat therapy, iontophoresis and electrotherapy). Manual Therapy encompasses the diagnosis and treatment of the ailments of various etiologies through hands-on intervention. ... Joint manipulation is a type of passive movement of a skeletal joint. ... Massage in Tarifa, Spain. ... Cryotherapy is used to define several techniques and procedures in the medical community. ... heat/massage therapy ... Iontophoresis is a non-invasive method of propelling high concentrations of a charged substance, normally medication or bioactive-agents, transdermally by repulsive electromotive force using a small electrical charge applied to an iontophoretic chamber containing a similarly charged active agent and its vehicle. ... Electrotherapy is the use of electrical energy in the treatment of impairments of health and a conditions of abnormal functioning. ...

Nowadays, in various countries physiotherapists are specializing in orthopaedic medicine. Those people can use diagnostic and therapeutic infiltration/injections to various soft tissue and joints. They are trained to diagnose and treat various orthopaedic conditions.

Despite ongoing research giving a clearer picture regarding the use of various modalities in specific conditions, the benefits of electrotherapy are widely debated.

The practice of physical therapy should not be defined by the use of modalities but rather the integration of examination, history, analysis and restoration of movement dysfunction.

Cardiopulmonary physical therapy

Cardiopulmonary physical therapists work with patients in a variety of settings. They treat acute problems like asthma, acute chest infections and trauma; they are involved in the preparation and recovery of patients from major surgery; they also treat a wide range of chronic cardiac and respiratory conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis (CF) and post-myocardial infarction (MI). They work with all ages from premature babies to older adults at the end of their life. Physical therapists are pioneering new management techniques for non-organic respiratory problems like hyperventilation and other stress-related disorders as well as leading the development of cardio-pulmonary rehabilitation and non-invasive ventilation. In medicine, a trauma patient has suffered serious and life-threatening physical injury resulting in secondary complications such as shock, respiratory failure and death. ... Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), also known as chronic obstructive airway disease (COAD), is a group of diseases characterized by limitation of airflow in the airway that is not fully reversible. ... Heart attack redirects here. ...

Neurological physical therapy

Treatment in neurological conditions is typically based upon exercises to restore motor function through attempting to overcome motor deficits and improve motor patterns. To achieve this aim various theoretical frameworks have been promoted, each based upon inferences drawn from basic and clinical science research. Whilst some of these have remained static, others are designed to take into account new developments, perhaps the most notable example being the "movement science" framework. The various philosophies often generate considerable debate.

Integumentary physical therapy

Treatment of conditions involving the skin and related organs. Common conditions include wounds and burns. Treatment interventions include debridement of wounds and burns, dressings, scar prevention and reduction.

Physical therapy education

Programs around the world

As with many aspects of the profession, physical therapy training varies considerably across the world. As a rule, physical therapy studies involve a minimum of four years of tertiary education. Some examples are described here.

  • In the United Kingdom, university degrees tend to be three rather than four years in length, as British students historically specialise earlier in their education than in most other developed countries. In order to qualify, students are required to complete 1000 hours of clinically based learning: this typically takes place in the final two years; however, some courses also have clinical placement in the first year. Thirty-five universities and tertiary level institutions train physiotherapists in the UK. The vast majority of physiotherapists work within the National Health Service, the state healthcare system.
  • In Turkey, the Physiotherapy (BPT) education is provided by physiotherapy schools in universities (Hacettepe University, Dokuz Eylül University, İstanbulUniversity, Baskent University, Pamukkale University, Dumlupınar University, Süleyman Demirel University) after high school education. Education takes 4 years or 5 years with preb classes. MSc and PHD education is given by institutes of medical sciences.
  • In Bangladesh, the Bachelor of Physiotherapy (BPT) course is provided by the Medicine Faculty of University of Dhaka. There are two affiliated institute who provides 5 years of Professional education including one year internship. Bangladesh Physiotherapy Association and Bangladesh Physiotherapy Society are two professional body of Physiotherapy here.
  • In Pakistan there are 8 colleges offering Bsc. Physiotherapy and 2 colleges offering Msc in PT.physical therapist have a good scope in government and private hospitals and they are awarded 17 grade pay scale.
  • In Australia, where physical therapy is called physiotherapy, an undergraduate physiotherapy degree (B.Phty) is typically undertaken over a four-year period, with the early components being predominantly theoretical including basic anatomy, biology, physics, psychology, kinesiology, goniometry and physiology. In the latter half of the degree students partake in practical components focusing on musculoskeletal physiotherapy, neuromuscular physiotherapy (notably Souvlis pain mechanisms), paediatric physiotherapy, geriatric physiotherapy, cardiothoracic physiotherapy, Vicenzino Manipulations, fire cupping and women's health. The program generally progresses with an increasingly clinical focus and usually the final year involves practical placements at clinics, and research. Postgraduate entry into physiotherapy is possible in some institutions, typically involving two years of study following the completion of a related (e.g. exercise physiology or science) Bachelor degree. Students in these courses are often supported by specific Physiotherapy societies, however the introduction of VSU by the Australian Government has reduced the functioning and support of these groups. The University of Melbourne is introducing a new postgraduate physiotherapy degree as part of the Melbourne Model. The Melbourne Model will enable students to enrol in a 3 year undergraduate degree in Biomedicine or Science (commencing in 2008) followed by a 3 year postgraduate Physiotherapy degree.
  • In Canada, entry-level physiotherapy education is offered at 13 universities. Many of these university programs are at the Master's level, meaning that applicants must have already completed an undergraduate degree prior to applying. (All entry-level programs in Canada are slated to be at the Masters level by 2010.) Many universities also offer graduate programs in physiotherapy, rehabilitation, or related disciplines at the masters or doctoral level. Many physiotherapists may advance their education at these levels in such Clinical Practice Areas as cardiorespirology, geriatrics, neurosciences, orthopaedics, pediatrics, rheumatology, sports physiotherapy, and women's health.
  • In New Zealand, there are currently two schools of physiotherapy offering four-year undergraduate programs. Many New Zealand physiotherapists work in the private health care system as musculoskeletal physiotherapists and the curriculum reflects the need to prepare graduates for autonomous practice. Students follow an educational program similar to Australia with an emphasis on biomechanics, kinesiology and exercise. Postgraduate study typically involves two years of subject specific learning.
  • In the Philippines, physical therapy programs are generally 5 years in length and award the B.S. Physical Therapy degree upon graduation. The program consists of 2 years of general education, 2 years of physical therapy subjects, and a final year of internship & research/thesis. Some schools require students to complete a full 12 months of internship while other schools only require 10. During the internship year, students are required to fulfill clinical affiliations with hospitals, outpatient clinics, and other healthcare facilities. Due to the healthcare structure in the Philippines, clinics and therapy departments are often headed by a Physiatrist who writes out specific treatment orders for the PT to follow, and majority of the treatments are cash-based since not a lot of people have health insurance. Recently, the M.S. Physical Therapy postgraduate program has been made available by the University of Santo Tomas (Manila, Philippines). Once a student graduates from the BSPT program, he/she is then required to pass a national licensure exam administered by the Professional Regulation Commission. The said paper-based exam is a grueling 2 day ordeal which consists of approximately 730 questions. It is only administered twice a year and the names of those who pass the exam are published in several national newspapers. Those who pass the exam become licensed PTs and are then entitled to add the initials PTRP (Physical Therapist Registered in the Philippines) after their name.
  • In South Africa the degree (B.PhysT, B.Sc Physio or B.Physio) consists of four years of general practice training, involving all aspects of Physiotherapy. Typically, the first year is made up of theoretical introduction. Gradually, time spent in supervised practice increases until the fourth year, in which the student generally spends about 80% in practice. In the fourth year, students are also expected to complete Physiotherapy research projects, which fulfills the requirements of an Honours degree. Professional practice and specialization can only be entered into after a state governed, compulsory year of community service is completed by the student after graduation.
  • In the United Arab Emirates[1] the Bachelor Of Physiotherapy (BPT) consists of a 4 year undergraduate degree program. In the first year of the program they are introduced to pre-clinical subjects such as Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, Human Behaviour & Socialisation & Basic Medical Electronics & Computers. The students also get hands on experiences in cadaveric dissections while learning Human Anatomy during the first year of the program. The students progressively are introduced to supervised clinical practice and the integrated curriculum offers the best learning experiences in addition to extensive inhouse elearning programs. The course offers Case Based Learning experiences and focusses on Evidence Based Practices. The program culminates with a six month internship ending with a research project work.
  • In Spain university degrees constist of a 3 years program and several post-graduated courses are available for practitioners. There are 38 universities training physiotherapists in Spain.
  • In the United States a student completes an undergraduate degree with a strong science component prior to gaining entry into a Doctor of Physical Therapy program. Students complete clinical internships as part of their education.
  • In the Republic of Ireland, Physiotherapy is available as an undergraduate course in four universities, Trinity College, University College Dublin, Royal College of Surgeons and University of Limerick. Courses are four years in length with clinical practice in the final two years. Students are required to complete 1000 hours of clinical practice before graduation.
  • In India, Physiotherapy is offered as bachelor degree after a student successfully completes four year course of physiotherapy in a college affiliated to a university. Mangalore city has highest number of physiotherapy colleges in India.
  • I n Sri Lanka, Physiotherpay is available as a Diploma course for 2years in School of Physiotherapy & Occupational Therapy which is affilited to the National Hospital of Colombo from 1957. After the 6 months of training students were sending to the Hospitals for clinical practise. From the year 2005 Medical Faculties of University of Peradeniya & University of Colombo have started the undergarduate course for 4years.

Following basic physical therapy training, experienced practitioners may undertake further study towards certification as a specialist practitioner. For example, in the United States, experienced physical therapists may apply to take a specialty exam to earn board certification in any of seven sub-specialty areas: Cardiovascular and Pulmonary, Clinical Electrophysiologic, Geriatric, Neurologic, Orthopaedic, Paediatric, and Sports physical therapy. NHS redirects here. ... Human heart and lungs, from an older edition of Grays Anatomy. ... For the song by Girls Aloud see Biology (song) Biology studies the variety of life (clockwise from top-left) E. coli, tree fern, gazelle, Goliath beetle Biology (from Greek: βίος, bio, life; and λόγος, logos, speech lit. ... A magnet levitating above a high-temperature superconductor demonstrates the Meissner effect. ... Psychological science redirects here. ... Look up kinesiology in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The term goniometry is derived from two Greek words, gonia, meaning angle and metron, meaning measure. ... This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ... Vicenzino Manipulations are a series of manipulations to both the elbow and the ankle/foot to cure Tennis Elbow and over-pronation at the ankle respectively. ... Fire cupping is a method of applying acupressure by creating a vacuum next to the patients skin. ... Voluntary student unionism (VSU) is a policy under which membership of – and payment of membership fees to – university student organisations is not compulsory. ... , Mangalore (Kannada: ಮಂಗಳೂರು, Mangalooru; Tulu: ಕುಡ್ಲ, Kudla; Konkani: ಕೊಡಿಯಾಲ್, Kodial; Beary: ಮೈಕಾಲ, Maikala)   is the chief port city of the state of Karnataka, India. ...

Qualifications in the United States

Physical Therapists must have a graduate degree from an accredited physical therapy program before taking the national licensing examination. Most educational programs now offer the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. All states (in the United States) require physical therapists to pass the [National Physical Therapy Examination] after graduating from an accredited physical therapist educational program before they can practice. The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) is a postbaccaluareate degree conferred upon successful completion of a doctoral level professional (entry-level) or postprofessional education program. ...

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, there were 209 accredited physical therapist programs in 2007. Of the accredited programs, 31 offered the Master of Physical Therapy, and 179 offered the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. Virtually all programs are in transistion to the DPT degree. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is a national professional organization representing more than 66,000 members. ... Year 2007 (MMVII) is the current year, a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and the AD/CE era in the 21st century. ... The Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) is a postbaccalaureate degree conferred upon successful completion of an accredited Physical therapy professional education program. ... The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) is a postbaccaluareate degree conferred upon successful completion of a doctoral level professional (entry-level) or postprofessional education program. ...

Physical therapist programs start with basic science courses such as biology, chemistry, and physics, and then introduce specialized courses such as kinesiology, biomechanics, neuroanatomy, human growth and development, pathology, diagnostics, physical examination techniques, and therapeutic procedures. Besides classroom and laboratory instruction, students receive supervised clinical education. For the song by Girls Aloud see Biology (song) Biology studies the variety of life (clockwise from top-left) E. coli, tree fern, gazelle, Goliath beetle Biology (from Greek: βίος, bio, life; and λόγος, logos, speech lit. ... For other uses, see Chemistry (disambiguation). ... A magnet levitating above a high-temperature superconductor demonstrates the Meissner effect. ... Look up kinesiology in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Biomechanics is the research and analysis of the mechanics of living organisms or the application and derivation of engineering principles to and from biological systems. ... Neuroanatomy is the anatomy of the nervous system. ... A renal cell carcinoma (chromophobe type) viewed on a hematoxylin & eosin stained slide Pathologist redirects here. ...

Physical therapist education is rigorous, so interested students should attain superior grades in high school and college, especially in science courses. Courses useful when applying to physical therapist educational programs include anatomy, biology, chemistry, social science, mathematics, and physics. Before granting admission, many professional education programs require experience as a volunteer in a physical therapy department of a hospital or clinic.

Physical therapists should have strong interpersonal skills to successfully educate patients about their physical therapy treatments. They should also be compassionate and possess a desire to help patients, and sometimes to interact positively with the patient's family.

Physical therapists are expected to continue professional development by participating in continuing education courses and workshops. A number of states require continuing education to maintain licensure.

Many physical therapists pursue board certification in one of seven specialty areas (orthopaedic, pediatric, neurologic, sports, electrophysiologic, geriatric, and cardio-pulmonary). Board certified specialists must have demonstrated special expertise in their clinical area.

Journals and publications

Physical therapists have access to a wide range of publications and journals. [3] Some are strictly limited to physical therapy, while others (eg. various orthopedic and surgical journals) are not as specific, yet physical therapists contribute to them and read them. Here are a few: A journal (through French from late Latin diurnalis, daily) is a daily record of events or business. ... Orthopedic surgery or orthopedics (BE: orthopaedics) is the branch of surgery concerned with acute, chronic, traumatic and recurrent injuries and other disorders of the locomotor system, its musclular and bone parts. ... Surgery Surgery is the medical specialty that treats diseases or injuries by operative manual and instrumental treatment. ...


  1. ^ The terms physical therapy and physiotherapy are synonymous and can be used interchangeably. The term physical therapy appears to be favored in the United States, while physiotherapy - or physio - appears to be favored in Canada, England, Australia, and many other countries.
  2. ^ Description of Physical Therapy - What is Physical Therapy? WCPT website
  3. ^ Mapping the literature of physical therapy. E M Wakiji. Bull Med Libr Assoc. 1997 July; 85(3): 284–288.

See also

This article needs cleanup. ... Brunnstorm Approach developed by the swedish physical therapist Signe Signe Brunnstrom emphasises the synergetic pattern of movement that develop during recovery from hemiplegia. ... The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) is a postbaccaluareate degree conferred upon successful completion of a doctoral level professional (entry-level) or postprofessional education program. ... The term Exercise can refer to: Physical exercise such as running or strength training Exercise (options), the financial term for enacting and terminating a contract Category: ... Joint manipulation is a type of passive movement of a skeletal joint. ... The Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) is a postbaccalaureate degree conferred upon successful completion of an accredited Physical therapy professional education program. ... Occupational therapy refers to the use of meaningful occupation to assist people who have difficulty in achieving healthy and balanced life; and to enable an inclusive society so that all people can participate to their potential in daily occupations of life. ... Physical medicine and rehabilitation is a particular field of medicine. ... Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapy or OMPT is a sub-specialty of Physical Therapy and Orthopaedic Physical Therapy. ... An orthopedic pillow is a pillow designed to correct body positioning in bed or while lying in any other surface. ... Iontophoresis is a non-invasive method of propelling high concentrations of a charged substance, normally medication or bioactive-agents, transdermally by repulsive electromotive force using a small electrical charge applied to an iontophoretic chamber containing a similarly charged active agent and its vehicle. ... Phonophoresis is the use of ultrasound to enhance the delivery of topically applied drugs. ...

External links

National associations

  Results from FactBites:
Chest Physical Therapy: Encyclopedia of Children's Health (1619 words)
Chest physical therapy is the term for a group of treatments designed to improve respiratory efficiency, promote expansion of the lungs, strengthen respiratory muscles, and eliminate secretions from the respiratory system.
The risks and complications associated with chest physical therapy are dependent upon the health of the child.
Because chest physical therapy is often prescribed for childrven with chronic health problems, parents are often required to learn the techniques so the procedure can be performed regularly at home.
  More results at FactBites »



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