According to the American Physical Therapy Association, the goal of physical therapy (PT) or physiotherapy is to improve mobility, restore function, reduce pain, and prevent further injury by using a variety of methods, including exercises, stretches, traction, electrical stimulation, and massage. Special tools are used, such as hot or cold packs, crutches, braces, treadmills, prosthetics, compression vests, computer-assisted feedback, lasers, and ultrasound. Patients range in age from newborns to the elderly.
Physical therapy was first documented in China around 3000 BC with the use of joint manipulation and massage to relieve pain. The ancient Greek doctor Hippocrates wrote about massage and hydrotherapy in 460 BC, and splints and exercises were used to treat wounded Roman gladiators. The modern discipline of physical therapy emerged to treat soldiers wounded in World War II.
Physical therapy is commonly used for musculoskeletal injuries, joint pain or disorders, low back pain, cerebral palsy, and rehabilitation after injury or surgery, including heart surgery or mastectomy. Physical therapy, especially early physical therapy, can be painful, and many patients use medications for pain during therapy.
In the United States, all states require physical therapists to graduate from an accredited physical therapy program and pass a licensing exam before they practice. A physical therapy program includes supervised clinical experience and coursework in biology, chemistry, anatomy, and therapeutic techniques. Physical therapists work in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, schools, sports facilities, and patients' homes. Patients may be referred to a physical therapist by a doctor or may directly contact a physical therapist.
Achilles tendon lengthening, Achilles tendon-lengthening (ATL) procedure, ACLR rehabilitation, active lumbar exercises, active physical therapy, active range of motion exercises, active ROM, acupuncture, acute ankle inversion sprains, acute care for elders, adaptive device and equipment use, adaptive devices, adjusting joint subluxations, AEH, aerosol therapy, afferent stimulation, aggressive physical therapy, aggressive spine rehabilitation, airway clearance devices, airway clearance regimens, airway suctioning, Alexander technique, allopathic medicine, ambulation exercises, Ambulation training, ambulatory physical therapy, ambulatory respiratory rehabilitation, American Physical Therapy Association, amputation alternative, analytic physiotherapy, anatomic ranges of mobility, anatomy, ancillary services, antalgic electrotherapy, applications of cold, applications of physical agents such as heat or cold, aquatic physical therapy, aquatic therapy, arm care, arterial emoblization hyperthermia, arthrographic distension, arthrolysis, arthroscopic distension, assessment, assisted coughing, assistive device and equipment use, athletic trainer, atraumatic recurrent posterior shoulder subluxation, augmented feedback, autotraction, balance, balance reactions, balance techniques training, balance training, balneology, balneotherapy, behavior-oriented physical therapy, behavioral medicine (BM) rehabilitation program, behavioral modification techniques, biofeedback, biofeedback therapy, biomechanics, Bobath, Bobath physical therapy, Bobath therapeutic exercises, body weight-supported treadmill training, botulinum toxin A (BTXA), bracing, breath therapy, breathing exercises, breathing training, bronchopulmonary hygiene physical therapy, burn rehabilitation, BWSTT, CAI simulation program, Canalith repositioning, cardiopulmonary assessment, cardiopulmonary physical therapy, cardiopulmonary physical therapists, cardiopulmonary physiology, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, central neural blockade, cervical collar, cervical electrostimulation, cervical manipulation, cervical spinal manipulation, cervical traction, chest percussion, chest physical therapy, chest physiotherapy (CP), chest PT, chest shaking, chest vibration, chest wall oscillation, chiropractic education and technique, chiropractic health, chiropractic manipulation, chiropractic radiology education, chiropractic profession, chiropractic therapy, chiropractors, chronic disability prevention, CI therapy, CKC, classification-based physical therapy, climatology, clinic-based rehabilitation, clinic-centered rehabilitation, clinical evaluation, closed chain rehabilitation, closed kinetic chain exercise (CKC), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), cold agent application, cold bath, cold compress, cold therapy, combination therapy, communication, complex decongestive physiotherapy, complex physical therapy, compression bandages, compression bandaging, compression garments, compression pump, compression stockings, compression therapy, conservative therapy, Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy (CI therapy), continuous passive motion, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), continuous traction, controlled breathing, controlled cough, conventional chest physical therapy, conventional physical therapy procedure, coordination, coordination exercises, coordinative training, cough stimulation techniques, coughing, counter irritation, CPM, CPT, crutches, cryotherapy, cyphosis, dance, debridement of wounds and burns, deep heating agents, deep-tissue massage, diadynamic currents, diagnosis of pathology, diagnosis of musculoskeletal system functional disorders, diaphragmatic breathing, differentiated rehabilitation, DIH, direct injection hyperthermia, directed coughing, disability prevention treatment techniques, distally fixated knee extensor resistance training, documentation and coordination, dressings, Dutch low back pain guideline, dynamic exercise stress testing, eccentric exercises, education, education through repetition of functional tasks, effective listening, electric muscle stimulation, electrical stimulation, electromedicine, electromyographic biofeedback, electromyography, electrophysical agents, electrostimulation, electrotherapeutic agents, electrotherapeutic modalities, electrotherapy, EMG, energy conservation techniques training, Epley maneuver, ergonomics, evidence-based physical therapy, examination, exercise, exercise physiology, exercise prescription, exercise program, exercise therapy, exercise training, exercise treatment, exercises, exercises and physical training, extension closure, extension-mobilization, external vibrations, extracorporeal shock wave therapy, fall recovery techniques training, fear-avoidance-based physical therapy, fitness program, fitting for assistive devices, flexion closure, foot orthotics, first-contact nonphysician care, fitness, Florida Physical Therapy Association, Flutter VRP1, forced exhalation technique, forced expiratory maneuvers, French approach, French physical therapy methods, French technique, function restoring treatment techniques, functional anatomy, functional electrical stimulation (FES), Functional Independence Measure (FIM), functional limitations, functional rehabilitation, functional retraining techniques, functional training, functional training in self-care and home management, GAITRite computerized gait analysis system, galvanization, gerentological physical therapy, geriatric rehabilitation, gestural improvement of the patient (notions of ergonomics, lifting techniques), goniometry, Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM), group balance skills, group exercises, gymnastics, hand therapist, hands-on treatment techniques, health education, heat, heat agent application, heat and cold treatment, heat therapy, HFCC, high frequency chest compression (HFCC), high-frequency chest wall oscillation, high-frequency oral airway oscillation, high-velocity thrust manipulation, hip extensors, home based rehabilitation, home-based physical therapy (PT), home rehabilitation, hospital-based physical therapist, hospital physical therapy, hospital physical therapy outpatient departments, hot pack, Hot/Ice Thermal Blanket, hydrocollator pack, hydrotherapy, hyperthermia, hypnotherapy, IH, IIH, immersive virtual reality (VR), immobilization, impulse galvanization, infrared, infrared heating, innocuous mechanical stimulation, inpatient rehabilitation programs, instructed coughing, instrumental chest physiotherapy, integumentary physical therapy, intensive cognitive rehabilitation program (ICRP), intensive passive mobilization techniques, intensive physical therapy, interference current, interferential current, internal vibrations, interrupted traction, interstitial implant hyperthermia, interventions, intracellular hyperthermia, inversion traction, iontophoresis, isoinertial trunk extensor strength, isometric trunk extensor strength, joint manipulation, joint mobilization, joint play, joint movement, joint replacement therapy, Kegel exercises, kinebalneotherapy, kinesiology, kinesitherapy, kinetic chain training, Kinetron isokinetic exerciser, Kite and Lovell technique, knee extensor resistance training, knee extensors, knee taping techniques, knowledge of functional anatomy, knowledge of results (KR), laser, laser therapy, leg extensor training, lifestyle modifications, light-therapy, lifting techniques, limb-load monitor, listening, long-duration passive stretch, low energy laser, low-frequency currents, low-intensity home-based physical therapy, low-intensity laser irradiation, lower extremity endurance training, lower extremity training, lumbar posture modification, lumbo-pelvic thrust manipulation, lymph drainage, lymphatic massage, magnetic field, magnetic field therapy, magnetically mediated hyperthermia, Maitland mobilization, manipulation, manipulation package, manipulation under joint anesthesia/analgesia, manipulative therapy, manipulative techniques, manipulative therapists, manual diagnosis, manual handling, manual interventions, manual lymph drainage, manual medicine, manual mobilization, manual physical therapy, manual techniques, manual therapy, manual therapy techniques, Masai barefoot technology, massage, massage therapists, matrix composition, McKenzie method, mechanical agents, mechanical interventions, mechanical modalities, mechanical stimulation, mechanical techniques, mechanical vibration, mechanotherapy, medium-frequency currents, mental imagery, microwave treatment, MMH, mobilization, modified constraint-induced movement therapy (mCIMT), motor function, motor program theory, motor restriction, motor training techniques, movement enhancement, movement dysfunction, movement science, movement therapy, movement treatment techniques, MUJA, multicomponent intervention, muscle relaxation training, muscle relaxation techniques, muscle strength training, muscle strength techniques training, muscle strengthening exercises, musculoskeletal exam, musculoskeletal physical therapy, musculoskeletal system functional disorders diagnosis, musculoskeletal system functional disorders therapy, myofascial release physical therapy, needle suspension, neonatal physical therapy, neurodevelopmental therapy, neurology, nerve conduction testing, neurological physical therapy, neuromodulation, neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), neuromuscular physical therapy, neuromuscular stimulation, neuromuscular stretching principles, neuropsychological knowledge, nondistally fixated knee extensor resistance training, noninvasive respiratory muscle aids, noninvasive ventilation, nonoperative treatment, nonpharmacologic pain reduction, nonpharmacologic therapy, nonpharmacologic treatments, nonsteroidal agents, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs), nonsurgical options, nonsurgical techniques, nonsurgical treatment methods, nonthermal physical therapy, NSAID, nutrition, nutritional intervention, occupational health, occupational therapy, OKC, open kinetic chain exercise (OKC), oral airway oscillation, orthopaedic physical therapy, orthopedic appliances, orthopedic physical therapy, orthopedic sports medicine, orthotic device and equipment use, orthotics, osteopathic medicine, outpatient physical therapy, outpatient physical therapy treatment, outpatient vascular exercise, overground mobility therapy, pain reduction treatment techniques, palatal plate therapy, parenteral opioids, passive joint mobilization, passive dorsiflexion range of motion, passive modalities, passive muscle stretch tests, passive range of motion (PROM), passive range of motion exercises, passive range of motion (PROM) on intracranial pressure (ICP) and cerebral perfusion pressure (CPP), passive static principles, passive stretching, pathologic ranges of mobility, pathophysiology, patient education, patient related instruction and counseling, pediatric physical therapy, pelvic floor muscle (PFM) training, pelvic floor neuromuscular electrostimulation, pelvic floor physical therapy, pelvic physical therapy, percussion, percutaneous peripheral afferent nerve stimulation, perioperative physical therapy, pharmaceutical treatment, phototherapy, physical agents, physical diagnosis, physical examination, physical medicine, physical medicine specialists, physical modalities, physical performance test (PPT), physical rehabilitation, physical stress theory, physical therapeutic procedures, physical therapist, physical therapist assistants, physical therapist management, physical therapy care, physical therapy clinics, physical therapy consultation, physical therapy-including exercises, physical therapy intervention, physical therapy modalities, Physical Therapy Patient Simulator, physical therapy practice, physical therapy program, physical therapy services, physical therapy techniques, physiological ranges of mobility, physiology, physiotherapeutic modalities, physiotherapeutic techniques, physiotherapeutic treatment, physiotherapist, physiotherapy, pneumatic compression, Ponseti casting, pool exercises, position specific drainage and expectoration exercises, positional feedback stimulation training, positioning treatments, postoperative ambulation, postoperative pain relief, Ponseti technique, postoperative physical therapy, postoperative rehabilitation, post-stroke inpatient rehabilitation, post-stroke PT, postural drainage, postural draining, postural training, posturography, power and stamina training, preoperative PT, pressure therapy, PRET, prevention, prevention education, preventive care, PRICEMM, primary care providers, primary physical therapist, productive activities, progressive resistance exercise (PRE), progressive resistance exercise in physical therapy, progressive resistance exercise training, progressive resistance muscle strength training, progressive resistance strengthening exercises, Proliferation therapy, prolotherapy, prostheses, prosthetic device and equipment use, prosthetic rehabilitation, provision of aids and appliances, psychosocial support, PT, public school physical therapy, pulmonary function tests (PFT), pulmonary rehabilitation, pulsed magnetotherapy, pulsed ultrasound, pursed-lip breathing, quadriceps strengthening exercises, quantitative progressive exercise muscle rehabilitation program (QPE), range of motion exercises, rational physical therapy, reducing nuclear protrusion, regenerative injection therapy (RIT), regular physiotherapy, rehabilitation, rehabilitation exercises, rehabilitation program, rehabilitation specialists, rehabilitation technology, rehabilitation therapy, relaxation, remedial gymnastics, replacement therapy, respiratory exercises, respiratory medicine, respiratory physical therapy, respiratory physiotherapy, respiratory PT, respiratory rehabilitation, respiratory therapy, restoring bony alignment, robot device, safe performance techniques training, sagittal-plane mobility, sauna therapy, scar prevention and reduction, selective dorsal rhizotomy, Semont manoevre, sequential pneumatic compression, serial manipulation, short-duration passive stretch, short-duration stretch, shortwave diathermy, shoulder pendulum exercises, side-lying positions, skin care, smoking cessation, soft tissue massage, spa-therapy, spa therapy, specific therapeutic exercise, spinal cord stimulation, spinal extension, spinal flexion, spinal injury units, spinal manipulation, spinal manipulative therapy, spinal palpation, sport physiotherapy, sports medicine, squat lifting, stabilizing exercises, standard neurorehabilitation (SRP), static balance, stimulation training, strength augmentation, strength training, strengthening of rotator cuff and thoracic musculature, strength-training exercises, stroke rehabilitation, suctioning via the endotracheal tube, superficial agents, supervised outpatient physical therapy, supervised rehabilitation program, supported-sitting positions, surface EMG, task-oriented physical therapy, TENS, therapeutic exercise, therapeutic exercise program, therapeutic management, therapeutic ultrasound, therapy of musculoskeletal system functional disorders, thermal modalities, thermotherapy, three-dimensional imaging of biochemical functions, tissue adaptation, tissue stress model, total contact casting (TCC), total rehabilitative care, traction, training, transcranial electrostimulation (TCES), transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS), treadmill, treadmill gait retraining, Tru-Trac traction, trunk strengthening exercise, two and three wheeled walker, three legged walker, ultrasonic diathermy, ultrasonic therapy, ultrasonography, ultrasound, ultrasound intervention, ultrasound therapy, ultrasound treatment, unilateral total knee arthroplasty rehabilitation, unsupervised home exercise knee rehabilitation program, upper extremity training, upper extremity endurance training, upper extremity strength training, US, vascular training, ventilatory muscle training, vestibular rehabilitation, vestibular rehabilitation exercises, vibration, virtual reality (VR) technology, virtual reality physical therapy, vocational rehabilitation, VR physical therapy, walking, walking backwards, water treatments, weight bearing exercises compression therapy, weight distribution, wellness program, whirlpool, wheelchairs, whole body vibration, willed-movement therapy, work reintegration, work integration.
Note: This monograph does not focus on evidence where physical therapy was used in combination with drugs, such as pain killers.