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Physical Therapy Information

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 11 months ago

 If your child has been injured or has any sort of movement problems resulting from an illness, disease, or disability, a doctor may recommend that your child go through physical therapy.

This kind of treatment is typically geared to provide pain relief, and to help a child resume normal activities.

A doctor might prescribe physical therapy for an infant who isn't reaching basic developmental milestones like rolling, sitting, or walking. If your child has a sports injury, a physical therapist may be able to help your child regain strength and movement and help your child return to the game. A physical therapist may also be able to show your child how to prevent a recurring injury.

When Is Physical Therapy Needed?

Physical therapy can be helpful even in a child's very early years. A doctor might prescribe physical therapy if your child is coping with a wide range of health issues, which can include:

  • developmental delays
  • cerebral palsy
  • traumatic brain injuries
  • muscular dystrophy
  • chromosome disorders
  • orthopedic injuries
  • heart problems
  • spina bifida or spinal cord injuries
  • fetal exposure to alcohol or drugs
  • acute trauma
  • limb deficiencies
  • muscle weakness
  • brachial plexus injuries
  • muscle or joint pain

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Physical therapists typically evaluate a patient to figure out the most effective way to improve mobility and relieve any pain. During the first visit, the physical therapist will likely do the following things:

  • observe and analyze the way your child moves and plays
  • observe and modify how your child walks (a child's gait)
  • identify the source of your child's pain and provide pain relief
  • provide instructions for home exercise programs
  • identify potential posture and alignment problems
  • consult with other medical professionals and school personnel
  • recommend a safe time to return to sports

Once the physical therapist has identified the problem, he or she will create a treatment plan. That plan might include:

  • strength training
  • stretching exercises to improve muscle flexibility
  • balance and coordination activities to decrease falls and injuries
  • adaptive play activities to allow a child to participate in school or recreational activities such as T-ball or basketball
  • aquatic (water) therapy to strengthen weak muscles
  • safety and prevention programs
  • heat, cold, electrical stimulation, massage, and ultrasound therapies to improve circulation around injuries

What Kinds of Qualifications Should I Look for in a Physical Therapist?

When you are selecting a physical therapist, you may want to ask about how much experience he or she has in working with children.

Physical therapists must earn a master's degree or receive a doctoral degree in physical therapy (a DPT) from an accredited college program. (This is a new requirement. Before 2002, physical therapists could have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college program.) Some physical therapists have additional training and education in certain specialties, such as pediatrics, orthopedics, sports medicine, or rehabilitation.

Physical therapists must also pass a state-licensing exam to practice. 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 tend to work in hospitals, private practices, fitness centers, homes, and rehabilitation and research facilities. You can also contact your state's physical therapy association for names of licensed physical therapists in your community. The coach at your child's school may also be able to recommend a physical therapist in your area who can help your child return to competitive sports.

Reviewed by: Karen Manternach, MSPT

Date reviewed: May 2005



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