What is Physical Therapy?

Physical Therapy (PT) uses manual techniques to treat and manage injuries or chronic conditions.  You may need Physical Therapy if you have difficulty moving and this limits your daily life. A Physical Therapist will teach you exercises and stretches to strengthen your muscles as well as new ways to walk or move.

Physical therapy can also help you:

  • Improve your balance
  • Improve your range of motion
  • Reduce excessive muscle tightness
  • Get relief from pain
  • Find appropriate adaptive equipment, like wheelchairs
  • Prevent future injury

What does a typical physical therapy session look like?

Throughout treatment, you will be encouraged to use your weaker arm or leg instead of your stronger limb.  This helps your brain repair itself and can improve your outcome.Your physical therapist may work on range of motion exercises and positioning strategies.  This will help to maintain joint mobility and prevent contractures. You may also work on fall prevention due to a high incidence of balance problems after brain injury. A lot of time in PT is spent working to restore or improve your mobility and independence. Your physical therapists may use neurodevelopmental treatment (NDT), a specialized therapy approach, in session. In NDT, your therapist will guide you through repeated movements that are relevant to your life and similar to the way you moved before your injury.

Your physical therapist will provide you with a lot of education about your condition and the activities you can safely do. They will continually monitor your progress to ensure that you are meeting your goals and plans will be changed if necessary.

What kind of training does a physical therapist have?

Physical Therapists have graduate degrees from an accredited physical therapy program. Until recently, Physical Therapists could earn either a doctorate or master’s degree. Now, Physical Therapy programs award only a Doctorate in Physical Therapy degree. In completing their training, Physical Therapists complete three years of professional training, including course work and supervised clinical practice. Physical Therapists must then pass a state licensure examination in order to practice.


  1. Desai, P. A Look at Physical Therapy (PT).  Rainbow Visions. 2008; V(2): 7-8, 28.  http://rainbowrehab.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Spring08.pdf.
  2. Going to a Physical Therapist. KidsHealth from Nemours website. http://kidshealth.org/kid/feel_better/people/physical_therapy.html#cat110. Updated June 2014.  Accessed July 15, 2014.
  3. Who Are Physical Therapists? American Physical Therapy Association website.  http://www.apta.org/AboutPTs/.  Updated May 23, 2013.  Accessed May 15, 2014.