If you are exploring different healthcare and medical professions, you may have wondered, what is physical therapy? Taking some time to understand the physical therapy definition can help you decide whether you would be a good candidate for a physical therapy career, and what your job would entail. When somebody is injured or recovering from a disability, they must seek out the help of a licensed physical therapist. Physical therapists work with patients to promote the body's healing and recovery process, and also to prevent future injuries from occurring. Physical therapists work one-on-one with patients to evaluate, diagnose and treat certain conditions, and also to educate the patient on how to take care of their body.

What Is Physical Therapy Used for?

When people are immobilized after an accident or severe injury, or they need to build up strength to prevent future injuries, they can turn to physical therapy treatment. When you've asked the question, "what is physical therapy?", consider the different roles that a physical therapist plays. The primary goal of a physical therapist is to promote healing and recovery, and also to help the patient learn how to manage daily task and activities if they are disabled or can't move a certain body part because of an injury or surgery. In some cases, physical therapy can help the patient recover after a surgery.

Some doctors and medical professionals suggest physical therapy for injuries and long-term health problems such as back pain, spinal stenosis, Parkinson's disease and even multiple sclerosis. This type of treatment is typically offered at clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, through home health agencies, and also in sports and fitness settings.

Understanding the Physical Therapy Definition

The basic physical therapy definition, as defined by WebMD.com, is as follows: "Physical therapy is a type of treatment you may need when health problems make it hard to move around and do everyday tasks. It helps you move better and may relieve pain. It also helps improve or restore your physical function and your fitness level."

In order to achieve a successful outcome with physical therapy, the therapist may use several different modalities as part of the treatment program. These typically include massage, hot and cold therapy, and physical exercise. Physical therapists are licensed healthcare professionals who have a least a master's degree in physical therapy. Some physical therapists who are heavily involved in research studies and other projects typically hold a doctorate degree.

In addition to helping patients learn how to move around without causing additional injury or damage to the tissues and joints, a physical therapist may offer specialized care for patients who are being treated for certain disease, have been diagnosed with cancer, and those who have lung problems or breathing problems. The standard physical therapy definition is fairly broad and does not account for the types of roles and duties involved when delivering specialized care. For example, the physical therapist may specialize in the treatment of nerves and related muscles, wound care, cancer-related problems or provide treatment for young children and seniors. Physical therapy can be used to treat sports injuries, neurological illness, cardiopulmonary disease and even some pathologic conditions.