The role of a physical therapist isn’t always well understood by the general public. Often times physical therapy is mistaken for physical training, massage therapy or chiropractic treatment (joint manipulation). While all of these elements can be part of physical therapy, it’s not the whole picture. Physical therapists primary concern in all situations is a function of the individual receiving therapy.
In other words, the physical therapist identifies what problems are causing the individual to not perform activities of daily living as well as they could and decides how to best address the issue. Issues could include pain, lack of range of motion, poor coordination, neurological disorders, post-surgical rehab, genetic conditions, poor strength and many more. After assessing problem areas, the physical therapist then decides which interventions will be best and what the prognosis for improvement will be.
For example, in pediatrics, there are many conditions as a result of genetic abnormalities that come with lifelong deficits in function which results in a poor prognosis for functioning at a “typical” level. In these situations, the role of the physical therapist is to educate the family on what to expect from the child and how to manage the conditions at home so care can continue as the child develops without necessarily continuing physical therapy forever. In another example, a child may come in due to an ankle sprain from sports. In this situation the prognosis for recovery and return to prior function is typically excellent through strengthening, range of motion, manual therapy and modalities and therapy will only continue for a few weeks.
A physical therapist can be useful in many different situations and can address a multitude of conditions but the primary role if any physical therapist is to improve function in patients and to educate the patients and/or family to allow ongoing improvement after therapy services have ended. If you aren’t sure if physical therapy is the right intervention for your child, please contact TEAM 4 Kids and a skilled therapist will screen or evaluate your child to let you know if physical therapy is right for them or if other interventions are needed.