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What is Physical Therapy?

Physical Therapists (PTs) are healthcare professionals who help individuals of all ages - from infants to seniors - gain, regain, or maintain movement and physical function.

A physical therapist may do more than you think!

Physical Therapists help children learn to independently perform gross motor skills such as walking, running, jumping, climbing, skipping, hopping, and navigating stairs. Adults may need assistance with bed mobility, walking and step negotiation. Any individual may be having difficulty with managing health and wellness. A variety of treatment interventions are used including therapeutic exercise, mobility/safety training, prevention programs, coordination and developmental activities. Our Physical Therapists also specialize in techniques using ultrasound, iontophoresis, massage, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, and much more!

Deficits in mobility can be present as the result of the following situations (not a comprehensive list):

  • Post-Stroke

  • Post-Traumatic Brain Injury

  • Post-Emotional Trauma

  • Autism

  • Cerebral Palsy

  • Genetic Disorders

  • Developmental (present at birth sometimes without known cause)

  • Orthopedic disorders

  • Sport related injuries

  • Natural Aging Process

What You and Your Loved One Can Expect with Physical Therapy

In most situations, you will need a referral from your family member’s primary care physician (PCP) for an evaluation of your mobility status and physical functioning. At your initial evaluation, the PT will obtain background information including a medical, developmental, and physical history (as appropriate given age) and obtain an understanding of your and/or the patient’s concerns and goals. Based on this information your PT will administer a formal and/or informal assessment with your loved one.

Formal assessments have the benefit of providing standardized scores based on research-driven data. Non-standardized testing does not provide standardized scores but can be interpreted based on criterion-referenced data and skilled clinical judgement. Both provide information that is used to help determine areas of need. After the formal and non-standardized assessments are administered, the PT will discuss the results and create a Plan of Care (POC) including long-term and short-term goals, suggested interventions, and frequency of treatment. You, as the caregiver, and the patient will be involved in creating this POC. Long term goals are the ‘big’ overall goals for the therapy to address. Short term goals are ‘how’ the long-term goals will be achieved. Your physical therapist will be available for questions from you at any point during this process.

Once the POC is established and approved by the PCP, therapy can begin. There is a wide variety of types of therapy dependent on skills that need to be addressed.

For children, most physical therapy is play-based and should aim to include you as the caregiver actively. Each session will target goals directly from the POC. Play activities may often look like things you already do in your home during play time; your physical therapist will explain which goals these play activities address.

For adults, each therapy session will include your physical therapist discussing your current skills and goals. Therapy activities will be functional to ensure skills are improved so that activities of daily living and quality of life are improved. The therapist will promote your maximal independent mobility.

Your PT will provide suggestions for activities that you and your family can do at home to reinforce the skills the patient is learning in therapy. Your therapist is only with your family for a short period of time each week; participating in carryover activities at home can drastically improve therapy outcomes.

It is often difficult to determine just how long physical therapy will need to continue. It depends on a variety of factors and the individual’s needs. While physical therapy provides the tools your loved one needs to improve impaired or delayed skills, it is not a “magic cure” and improvements can take weeks, to months, and sometimes years.

For more information about physical therapy and physical therapy programs, contact About Kids Home Health Care, a community comprised of caring clinicians who are devoted to patients and their families, and to unparalleled services.

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