Mental Health

What Is Physical Therapy? Definition, Purpose, and Uses

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Posted By Alex Perez - Mental Health Writer, B.A.

Physical therapy is a medical specialization that involves evaluating, assessing, and treating patients who cannot move their bodies.

While the practice of exercising as a part of healthy living is old in its roots, Physical therapy is believed to have been developed during the late 19th century through the introduction of massage and manual treatment of muscles in Europe.

At the beginning of the 20th century, techniques in physical therapy were employed throughout the United States to evaluate muscle performance in people affected by the polio virus. Therapists devised programs to build muscles whenever possible and also helped patients with polio develop the ability to use the remaining muscles to perform functional mobility exercises.

During the same period, physical therapists from their native United States were also trained to assist those who returned to the battlefields of World War I; these therapy professionals were called “reconstruction aids.” They worked in hospitals near to battlefields of France to help with an early rehabilitation process for wounded soldiers.

The most common patients were those suffering from amputated parts, head injuries, or spinal cord injuries. Physical therapists were later employed in various locations, including private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, public schools, and home health care agencies.


Physical Therapists

physical therapist

Physical therapy services are offered by physical therapists who are licensed professionals by the state where they practice. Physical therapists (or PTs or PTs, as often known) must possess an advanced master’s degree or a doctorate in clinical science from an accredited college or university.

Physical therapists already working but only possessing an advanced degree can be employed. However, all students who are new to the field are required to obtain a doctoral degree.

Physical therapy professionals are trained to analyze the condition of your body and assist you in achieving maximum mobility and autonomy. Treatment is highly customized.


Physical therapy

physical therapy

PT aids patients who suffer from certain motion disorders.

The physiotherapists work with their patients to provide advice or guide them through specific exercises and inform their patients about lifestyle changes that can aid in easing the various mobility and pain ailments. They also encourage movements like walking and offer certain mobility aids that could aid patients in improving their health.

Messages that physiotherapists perform may relieve people suffering from stiffness and pain by improving blood circulation and relaxing the area affected. This is referred to as manual therapy. It can be used to relax, manipulate and enhance the functionality of the affected region.

When to get assistance from a physical therapist?

Orthopedic disorders

Certain conditions, like trauma, which affects joints, and bone, and cause back pain and fractures, are treated by physiotherapists for orthopedics. When a surgical procedure is finished, physiotherapists implement techniques for joint mobilization, like Acupuncture (dry needles) as well as cold and hot packs, and electrical stimulation.

When fractures occur after the dislocated bone can be fixed, PT helps recover the motion, decreasing the stiffness and recovering that strength in the injured region.

Childhood disorders

PT is a treatment for certain childhood diseases like muscular dystrophy, which is a condition that manifests as a decrease in muscle strength. PT may help improve mobility and decrease pain for muscular dystrophy and other related ailments. Pediatric PT is also an excellent option for children suffering from delays in motor skills, such as walking, difficulty doing structured exercises, or hyperactivity.

Sports Injury

The physiotherapist can assist injured sportspeople by providing advice and guidance about their injuries. They evaluate, diagnose, treat the injury, and educate patients on specific movement limitations.

A myriad of treatments and methods can assist sufferers in easing their ailments through an integrative approach. Therefore, this particular form of therapy can enhance the body’s movements and function to the highest level

Physiotherapy’s purpose and importance

Repair faulty movement patterns. If you’ve got an injury or are suffering from chronic discomfort, physical therapy could assist in addressing the root problems causing the pain. It’s not just about providing relief from pain and comfort, but it also can aid in making adjustments to avoid ongoing issues. In most cases, physical therapy can be enough to heal the injury and get back to playing.

Avoid the formation of scar tissue after surgery or an injury. It is normal for scar tissue to develop, but it is crucial to stop the formation of scar tissue since it may cause tightness and pain. Physical therapists utilize stretching techniques and other manual methods to avoid this build-up, as well as ensure the development of scar tissue doesn’t hinder the rehabilitation process.

Stretch muscles that are tight: Stretching is crucial to maintain flexibility and flexibility. Your physical therapist can design the right stretching program for you.

Grip exercises are mandatory to strengthen the forearm and associated muscles so they can put less strain on joints. Physical therapy will assist you in strengthening the muscles that are injury prone.

Physical Therapy and Mental Health

Physical therapists don’t only provide exercises when you suffer an injury or when you suffer from chronic pain but they also help in improving your mental health by providing emotional support.


Jensen, G., Gwyer, J., Hack, L., Shepard, K. (2007). Expertise in physical therapy practice. Elsevier Inc.

Guccione, A. A., Avers, D., Wong, R. (2011). Geriatric physical therapy-ebook. Elsevier Health Sciences.

WebMD: What Is Physical Therapy?

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