Physical Therapy Basics

Print this page Bookmark and Share
Parents

Physical Therapy Basics

Doctors often recommend physical therapy for kids who have been injured or have movement problems from an illness, disease, or disability.

After an injury, physical therapists are often able to relieve pain and help kids resume daily activities. Physical therapists teach kidsexercises designed to help them regain strength and range of motion, and also show them how to prevent a recurring injury.

Physical therapy (PT) may be needed any time a child has difficulty moving in such a way that it limits daily activities.

Doctors may recommend PT for kids with:

  • sports injuries
  • developmental delays
  • cerebral palsy
  • genetic disorders
  • orthopedic disabilities/injuries
  • heart and lung conditions
  • birth defects (such as spina bifida)
  • effects of in-utero drug or alcohol exposure
  • acute trauma
  • head injury
  • limb deficiencies
  • muscle diseases

What Physical Therapists Do

Physical therapists use a variety of treatments to help build strength, improve movement, and strengthen skillsneededto complete daily activities.

Physical therapists might guide kids through:

  • developmental activities such as crawling and walking
  • training to build strength around an injury
  • flexibility exercises to increase range of motion
  • balance and coordination activities
  • adaptive play
  • aquatic (water) therapy
  • safety and prevention programs
  • instruction on how to avoid injuries
  • improving circulation around injuries by using heat, cold, exercise, electrical stimulation, massage, and ultrasound

During a visit, a physical therapist may:

  • measure the child's flexibility and strength
  • analyze the way the child walks and runs (a child's gait)
  • identify potential and existing problems
  • consult with other medical, psychiatric, and school personnel about anindividual education plan (IEP)
  • provide instructions for home exercise programs
  • recommend when returning to sports is safe

What to Look for in a Physical Therapist

As of 2010, entry-level physical therapists must earn a master's degree or receive a doctoral degree in physical therapy (a DPT) from an accredited college program. Physical therapists also must pass a state-administered national exam.

States also may impose their own regulations for practicing PT. You can find out more information about any other requirements for local physical therapists by contacting your state's licensure board.

Finding a Physical Therapist

Physical therapists typically work in hospitals, private practices, fitness centers, and rehabilitation and research facilities. Ask your doctor for recommendationsor contact your state's physical therapy association for names of local licensed physical therapists. Coaches or phys-ed teachersat your child's school also might be able to recommend a physical therapist.

Reviewed by: Carolyn T. Giles, PTA
Date reviewed: May 2011



Related Resources

OrganizationEaster Seals Easter Seals is a nonprofit, community-based health and human services provider dedicated to helping children and adults with disabilities and special needs gain greater independence.
OrganizationAmerican Physical Therapy Association This organization provides information on physical therapy, from therapists in each state to current research.


Related Articles

Cerebral Palsy Cerebral palsy (CP) is one of the most common congenital disorders of childhood. This article explains causes, diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and more.
Occupational Therapy Occupational therapy can help improve kids' cognitive, physical, and motor skills and enhance their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.
Delayed Speech or Language Development Knowing what's "normal" and what's not in speech and language development can help you figure out if you should be concerned or if your child is right on schedule.
Broken Bones, Sprains, and Strains Broken bones and torn muscles, ligaments, and tendons happen. Find out what to do if your child experiences any breaks, strains, or sprains.
Preventing Children's Sports Injuries Participation in sports can teach kids sportsmanship and discipline. But sports also carry the potential for injury. Here's how to protect your kids.
Autism Autism affects a child's communication and social skills, behaviors, and ability to learn. There's no cure, but early intervention and treatment can help kids improve skills and achieve their best potential.



Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

1995-2012 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.



 

Upcoming Events

Fun family health fair

REGISTRATION: Sign up online at www.keysports.net. By mail: Fill out this entry form and mail with a check payable to Miamisburg High School to Miamisburg High School C/O Jenny Brockert 1860 Belvo Road Miamisburg, OH 45342 For more information all Jenny Brockert at (937) 866-0771 ext.1414 or email her at jbrockert@miamisburg.k12.oh.us

Get your family started on a healthy lifestyle

View full event calendarView full event calendar

Health and Safety

Your child's health and safety is our top priority

Accreditations

The Children's Medical Center of Dayton Dayton Children's
The Right Care for the Right Reasons

One Children's Plaza - Dayton, Ohio - 45404-1815
937-641-3000
www.childrensdayton.org