August 26, 2019

What is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy utilizes an individualized treatment plan to provide you with the best care and results, focusing on returning to life and activity without dysfunction or pain. 

Physical therapy is in a variety of medical settings including; fitness centers, private practices, skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, schools, and more. 

Physical therapy is an integral part of care for diagnoses ranging from an ankle sprain to recovery from a brain injury or stroke.  Physical therapy is a collaboration between you, your physical therapist, primary care doctor, cardiologist, rheumatologist, or any other specialist involved in your care; health and wellness is a team effort!

Why choose Physical Therapy?

Physical therapists are clinical doctors and are qualified to screen you for neuromusculoskeletal pathology. Your PT is qualified to determine if physical therapy is appropriate for you or if you need to be referred to a different doctor or specialist for your symptoms. Your clinician will help develop a plan of care appropriate for you whether that is in PT, or elsewhere.

Physical therapists are rehabilitation and movement specialists – there are not many other healthcare professionals who understand how and why people move the way they do like physical therapists!


There are a variety of services that a physical therapist can provide. Physical therapy is a balanced, thorough approach to your pain. Physical therapist’s use the best techniques supported by consistent research to improve your pain and dysfunction. When necessary, Physical therapists provide manipulations, soft tissue mobilization, cupping, and dry needling to manage pain. These techniques are often viewed as exclusive to chiropractic care, massage therapy, and acupuncture, respectively. When paired with mindful specific exercise, these techniques among others will help you return to your best life.

The following are some treatment techniques utilized by physical therapists.  Inquire to see if a certain treatment is appropriate for you. Some services that physical therapists can provide are, but are not limited to:

  • Graston
  • Dry needling
  • Kinesiotaping/athletic taping
  • Functional Movement Screen
  • Modalities such as TENS, ultrasound, traction
  • Treatment types such as CIMT, Mckenzie, etc.
  • and many more!

These services aren’t required to be offered at every clinic and not every physical therapist will pursue the extra certifications to provide these services. Always inquire about what techniques a therapist is trained to perform. It is important to research what a clinic offers before deciding on where to begin your plan of care.

How to Find Your Therapist

Direct Access

You can see your Physical Therapist first! Often times patients find physical therapy after given a prescription from a medical doctor. In almost every state patients are able to directly access physical therapists without having to receive a prescription or referral from a medical doctor. To see if direct access is available in your area, check out the APTA website.

Therapist/patient ratio

It is important that you have one on one time with your physical therapist. The amount of individual time a therapist is able to spend with a patient can vary from clinic to clinic. Look for a clinic where the therapists organize their schedule to see each patient one on one for an hour at evaluation and two patients in an hour thereafter. This allows each patient to have one on one time with their therapist to reassess, update treatment plans, and receive focused hands on care.  Consider inquiring about therapist to patient ratio by asking how many patients are scheduled with each therapist per hour. Higher quality clinics will only see 1-2 patients an hour per licensed physical therapist.

Physical Therapy for Your Specific Needs

Through additional coursework or residency programs, there are eight specializations that physical therapists can pursue through the American Board of Physical The

rapy. Specializations offer physical therapists a broader base of knowledge and increased skills specifically to a certain area of practice. These specializations are pursued completely by choice and are not required of physical therapists. These specializations are:

  • Geriatrics
  • Pediatrics
  • Orthopedics
  • Sports Therapy
  • Cardiovascular and Pulmonary
  • Women’s Health
  • Clinical Electrophysiology
  • Neurology

If you’re looking for a physical therapist that is a board-certified specialist in one of the eight areas, you can easily access this information at and search for physical therapists based on a specialization in your area. 


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