What is Physical Therapy and Who are Physical Therapists?

Day to day in the clinic and around the community I frequently encounter misconceptions about what physical therapy is and who physical therapists are. I suppose this state of affairs is true of a lot of professions, but I find that these misconceptions often influence when and why a person might seek the care of a therapist.

Here are a few questions about who we are that I am often asked:
– How much school did you have to go through?
– Do you guys just treat athletes?
– What types of problems do you treat?

First and foremost, physical therapists are specialists in treating movement dysfunction. We have a variety of ways to deal with a variety of movement problems. These problems may consist of the issues that come with a stroke, a spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, or from having had an amputation. There are many many disorders and diagnoses that might bring about movement dysfunction. Then there is pain. Pain often creates movement dysfunction as well. It can limit your amount of movement, decrease your tolerance to movement, and make functioning annoying, difficult, or flat out impossible.

Physical therapists are trained and licensed professionals. We must graduate from an accredited physical therapy program. A typical duration of schooling for a physical therapist is 6-7 years of undergraduate and post-graduate university training (and yes it did feel like a long time!). After graduation we must pass a state licensure examination. Each year we must update our training with continuing education courses.

It is a very rewarding profession and well worth the effort it takes to become one.

A very common question I am asked next is: “Isn’t that a lot of school to learn about exercise?” In order to answer this I need to address what is physical therapy, which I will do in the next post…..

In the meantime, please feel to add any other questions you can think of about who are physical therapists and I will answer them.

Cory Blickenstaff PT
Forward Motion Physical Therapy

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