Physical Therapy

Physical therapy exams, treats, and instructs individuals in methods to correct, alleviate, and limit physical disability. Physical therapy, which is the care and services provided by or under the direction of a physical therapist, includes the following activities:

  1. Examining and evaluating individuals with impairment, functional limitation, and disability or other health-related conditions to determine a diagnosis, prognosis, and intervention. The tests and measures used may include assessment of functional capabilities in self-care and home management and in work, community, and leisure activities; balance and locomotion abilities; musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiopulmonary, and integumentary systems; sensory and neurophysiologic functions (e.g., by electromyographic and motor nerve conduction testing); pain; need for and use of assistive, adaptive, orthotic, protective, supportive, or prosthetic devices; and environmental barriers.
  2. Alleviating impairment, functional limitation, and disability by designating, implementing and modifying therapeutic interventions that may include patient-related instruction; therapeutic exercise; functional training in self-care and home management and in community, work,and leisure activities (including activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living, work hardening, and work conditioning); manual therapy techniques (including mobilization and manipulation); prescription, application, and, as appropriate, fabrication of assistive, adaptive, orthotic, protective, supportive, or prosthetic devices and equipment; airway clearance techniques; wound management; and electrotherapeutic, physical, and mechanical modalities;
  3. Preventing injury, impairment, functional limitation, and disability, including the promotion and maintenance of fitness, health, and quality of life in all age populations.
  4. Engaging in consultation, education, and research.
  5. As of October 1996, the United States had 155 accredited physical therapy programs (48 at the bachelor's level, 102 at the master's level, 2 at the doctor of physical therapy level, and 195 accredited physical therapy assistant programs. The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education of APTA determines the accreditation status of education programs for the physical therapist and physical therapist assistant. To meet the increasing need for qualified faculty, APTA recently initiated a program to support doctoral education for qualified physical therapists.

    According to APTA, the United States has an estimated 97,000 licensed physical therapists. Of this number, 74 percent (71,780) practice



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