WebMD
Font Size

Physical Therapist (PT)

Physical therapists are health professionals who evaluate physical problems and injuries, then provide education and treatment to promote health and physical function. Physical therapists also develop programs that include exercise and stretching to increase fitness and prevent injury.

A physical therapist provides hands-on treatment to help return normal movement to joints and muscles. He or she gives instruction about exercises to help heal and strengthen the body. Treatment may include physical or mechanical means, such as mobilization and manipulation of joints, exercise, heat, or mild electrical current. Physical therapists also use devices such as prosthetics (artificial limbs), orthotics (braces and supports), and equipment to help a person in daily life.

Some physical therapists treat a wide range of ailments. Others specialize in areas such as pediatrics, geriatrics, orthopedics, sports physical therapy, neurology, cardiovascular, pulmonary, oncology, and women's health. Physical therapists work for hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, rehabilitation facilities, fitness facilities, and schools.

Physical therapists earn a master's degree or entry-level doctorate in physical therapy from an accredited physical therapist educational program that includes a period of clinical work. All states require physical therapists to pass a licensure exam before they can practice.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerJoan Rigg, PT, OCS - Physical Therapy
Current as ofMarch 7, 2013

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 07, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.