When someone gets sick or injured, it is the doctor’s or surgeon’s job to repair the damage and set them on the road to recovery. However, the task of leading them along that road belongs to the physical therapist. Physical therapy is the field that covers recovery of functioning, recovery of mobility or learning to deal with limited mobility, and restoration of quality of life. The physical therapist works weekly—daily, if needed—with patients to make recovery as complete as possible.
Specialties within physical therapy include sports, which deals with getting athletes into peak condition; neurology, which is for patients with neural or cognitive problems affecting motion; orthopedic, for patients with skeletal issues; geriatric, for problems of age; and pediatric, who are trained to work with children. Professionally, physical therapy as a field evolved out of gymnastics training, and athleticism is harnessed to the purpose of getting not already toned people into peak condition, but rather restoring ordinary functioning to those who have lost or diminished it through ill fortune.
Physical therapy is considered necessary for patients who have serious mobility issues as a result of sickness or injury. While injury to the muscles or bones is the most obvious cause of limited mobility, that’ isn’t the end of the story. For one thing, extended bed rest can cause muscles to lose tone. This isn’t merely a matter of being unfashionably flabby. Untoned muscles may need retraining to flex properly again, or to be fully able to support a person’s weight. In extreme cases, muscles can atrophy, meaning they start to degrade from lack of use. This damage can be healed, but not always completely, and in any case, the patient has to learn how to move again.
Physical therapy is as much art as science, and it is important for someone who needs it to find the right person. This means research, but it also means taking into account having to go to this person’s office and see them every week. In addition to providing proper care, they need to be conveniently located, there needs to be good rapport, the therapist’s specialty and approach need to match the patient’s specific problem. The right therapist can be the key to success.