I bet I’ve been asked this question at least twice a week since I started practicing in 2008. At first I was really surprised to get this question! I thought it was obvious that physical therapy is utilized for so much more than only recovering from surgery. But, I’ve realized that we as physical therapists haven’t done a good job of getting the word out about what we really do.
So I’m going to break this down into two parts for you. To begin with, there are seven different sub-specialties in the field of physical therapy.
Orthopedic physical therapy focuses on treating conditions related to the musculoskeletal system. This covers everything from back and neck pain to sprains and strains. Acute and chronic sports injuries, arthritis AND post surgical rehabilitation are also treated by orthopedic physical therapists.
Geriatric physical therapy focuses on the unique needs of older adults. This includes treatment for conditions such as arthritis, cancer, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, joint replacement and balance disorders. The goal of geriatric physical therapy is to help restore mobility, reduce pain, accommodate physical limitations and increase physical fitness.
Neurological physical therapy focuses on neurological conditions and impairments, such as Alzheimer’s disease, brain injury, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury and stroke. Physical therapists concentrate on teaching clients to adapt to visual, balance, mobility and muscle loss impairments for activities of daily living.
Cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy focuses on helping individuals who suffer from cardiovascular and pulmonary conditions, such as heart attacks, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pulmonary fibrosis.
Pediatric therapists specialize in treating children of all ages who have problems with movement, strength or coordination. Children who have a chronic disease, a neurological disorder or who have sustained a serious injury could benefit from pediatric physical therapy.
Pelvic health physical therapists focus on treating pelvic pain, incontinence, and pre and post-partum care.
Vestibular rehabilitation physical therapists specialize in problems caused by deficits in the inner ear, such as vertigo or dizziness.
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