Physical Therapist

Physical therapist working with woman on leg stretches.

What is a physical therapist?

Physical therapy focuses on the evaluation, management, and prevention of disorders of human motion.

Physical therapists (PTs) are important members of the rehab (rehabilitation) team. They evaluate and provide treatment for people with health problems and disabilities caused by injury, disease, overuse, pain, or loss of a body part.

PTs focus on restoring a person's movement (mobility) and function. They also help prevent further disability, reduce risk for injury, and reduce activity limitations.

PTs may provide treatment and education for:

  • Mobility

  • Balance and gait retraining

  • Heat and cold therapy and massage

  • Activities of daily living

  • Burn care

  • Casting and splinting

  • Wheelchair, walkers, canes, and crutches

  • Muscle retraining

  • Pain management

  • Cardiovascular strengthening

  • Use of braces and splints (orthotics) and prosthetics artificial limbs (prosthetics)

  • Exercise programs

PTs work in many settings, including:

  • Hospitals

  • Nursing homes

  • Inpatient rehab centers

  • Outpatient rehab centers

  • Community and home health settings

  • Schools

  • Industrial health centers

  • Sports facilities

  • Private practice

Today, PTs who enter the profession must earn a doctorate from a school accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association. To practice, all graduates must be licensed in their state by passing a national certification exam.