Physical therapy or physiotherapy (often abbreviated to PT) is a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialty that remediates impairments and promotes mobility, function, and quality of life through examination, diagnosis, prognosis, and physical intervention (therapy using mechanical force and movements). It is carried out by physical therapists (known as physiotherapists in most countries) and physical therapist assistants (known as physical rehabilitation therapists or physiotherapy assistants in some countries).
In addition to clinical practice, other activities encompassed in the physical therapy profession include research, education, consultation, and administration. In many settings, physical therapy services may be provided alongside, or in conjunction with, other medical services.
Physical therapy involves the interaction between therapist(s), patients or clients, other health care professionals, families, care givers, and communities in a process where movement potential is assessed and diagnosed and goals are agreed upon. Physical therapy is performed by a physical therapist and sometimes services are provided by a physical therapist assistant (PTA) acting under their direction. Physical therapists and occupational therapists often work together in conjunction to provide treatment for patients. In some cases, physical rehabilitation technicians may provide physiotherapy services.
PTs are Rehabilitation professionals who diagnose and treat individuals of all ages, from newborns to the very oldest, who have medical or surgical problems or other health-related conditions, illnesses, or injuries that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities as well as they would like in their daily lives. PTs use an individual's history and physical examination to arrive at a diagnosis and establish a management plan and, when necessary, incorporate the results of laboratory and imaging studies like X-rays, CT-scan, or MRI findings. Electrodiagnostic testing (e.g., electromyograms and nerve conduction velocity testing) may also be of assistance. PT management commonly includes prescription of or assistance with specific exercises, manual therapy and manipulation, mechanical devices such as traction, education, physical agents which includes heat, cold, electricity, sound waves, radiation, rays, prescription of assistive devices, prostheses, orthoses and other interventions. In addition, PTs work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles, providing services to individuals and populations to develop, maintain and restore maximum movement and functional ability throughout the lifespan. This includes providing therapeutic treatment in circumstances where movement and function are threatened by aging, injury, disease or environmental factors. Functional movement is central to what it means to be healthy.