When you're exploring career options in the field of healthcare, wellness or sports medicine, you may have come across a physical therapist job description and wondered, what does a physical therapist do? Physical therapists typically work one-on-one with patients to improve range of motion and increase mobility after an accident or because of problems related to a disability. Learning about what a physical therapist is, and what types of roles they play, can help you make the most informed decision about your career in healthcare and wellness.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Physical therapists are trained to evaluate and treat a number of joint and muscle problems, and will use various modalities to increase strength, range of motion, flexibility and improve body mechanics. If you've wondered, what does a physical therapist do?, take a close look at some of the courses and clinical requirements of the average master's degree program in the field. Physical therapists use several techniques to improve flexibility and range of motion, and ensure that the patient can manage day-to-day tasks effectively and without causing additional damage to their body. They are responsible for treating acute pain, chronic pain, injuries, disabilities and side effects of various illnesses.

Physical therapy treatment programs may include massage services, heat and cold therapy, stretching and strengthening exercises, and postural corrections. Physical therapy may be a part of a complete treatment program that also includes chiropractic care, nutritional adjustments and lifestyle changes.

Physical therapists can work in a variety of settings and are trained to treat many types of injuries that result from sports activities, accidents, or problems related to a disease or illness. For example, a physical therapist might work with athletes to treat sports and orthopedic injuries. They might also work at a hospital to provide therapy to patients who have had an illness or surgery. Some are hired to work at rehabilitation facilities so that the patient can enjoy increased range of motion and improve coordination and balance after an accident, and return home to perform regular activities. If a patient cannot travel outside the home for services, the physical therapist may travel to a patient's home to provide in-home care.

Physical Therapist Explained

If you've wondered, what is a physical therapist, you can review job descriptions for different positions or speak with an admissions advisor at a college or university offering physical therapy programs. The field of physical therapy falls under the healthcare field and therapists must have completed at least a master's degree in order to be licensed.

Licensed physical therapists have completed a rigorous program and fulfilled several hundred clinical hours so that they can work with a variety of patients. Some physical therapists hold only a master's degree, while others continue to work towards a doctorate degree so that they can work in research and participate in various studies throughout their careers.

Physical therapists may work on a temporary schedule, on an as-needed basis, or in a more permanent role depending on the nature of their position.