Never been to a physical therapist’s office? Considering a career in physical therapy services anyway? No problem. Here is a little background on the kinds of physical therapy services you’ll encounter as a therapist or physical therapy aide.
1. Orthopedic Physical Therapy:
When most people think of physical therapy, this is the kind they’re thinking of. Orthopedic physical therapists diagnose and treat disorders and injuries related to the musculoskeletal system. A patient might visit an orthopedic physical therapist for post-operative physical therapy services (e.g., to heal after a joint replacement surgery). Orthopedic therapists can also help patients heal from sports injuries and manage arthritis and amputations.
Orthopedic physical therapy services encompass a variety of techniques, exercises, and treatments. Therapists may use hot and cold packs, strength training, and electrical stimulation, depending on the patient.
2. Geriatric Physical Therapy:
“Geriatric” is a word that comes from the Greek word for “old age.” Geriatric physical therapy is designed to treat and manage conditions related to the natural process of aging, including arthritis, osteoporosis, incontinence, and problems with balance. Some geriatric physical therapists work with patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Geriatric physical therapy services generally do not reverse a problem or eliminate symptoms; rather, they help patients reduce and manage symptoms.
3. Neurological Physical Therapy:
Neurological physical therapists work with patients who suffer from neurological diseases including cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, and stroke. Neurological physical therapy services help improve the loss of function related to these conditions, such as paralysis, poor balance, vision impairment, and difficulty walking.
4. Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Physical Therapy:
People who have had cardiac (heart) or pulmonary (lung) surgery can benefit from physical therapy services as well. Many health conditions can also impair the function of the heart and lungs, and physical therapy aims to increase cardiopulmonary patients’ endurance, independence, and quality of life.
5. Pediatric Physical Therapy:
Children sometimes suffer even more injuries than adults do, and they’re not exempt from conditions that can sometimes be debilitating. Pediatric physical therapists can diagnose, treat, and help manage injuries and diseases in children and adolescents, especially when the injuries or diseases are related to the muscles, bones and joints. Children who suffer from cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and developmental delays, among other conditions, can benefit from pediatric therapists. Usually, their treatments are focused on improving motor skills, strength and endurance, and coordination.
Note that physical therapists do not aim to replace or take precedence over other doctors and surgeons. They don’t offer “alternative” solutions; rather, they collaborate with other doctors to find a diagnosis and provide the least invasive treatment that can still improve a patient’s quality of life.
Physical therapists work with other doctors, but within their offices, they work with physical therapy assistants and aides. Being a physical therapy aide entails helping out around a physical therapist’s office, cleaning and setting up equipment, and helping patients practice their exercises so that they get the most out of their physical therapy services. If you’re curious about this career, take a look at our physical therapy aide/massage therapist program!