Physical therapy is a valuable branch of medicine that is, relatively speaking, quite young — at least in terms of its official recognition as a medical profession! The APTA (American Physical Therapy Association) only dates back to 1921, which is considered “new” when compared with other medical associations.
The First Physical Therapists
In reality, it is believed that physical therapy has been around for thousands of years, dating back as far as 460 B.C. when some of the first doctors such as Hippocrates and Galenus performed massage and manual therapy on their patients. Much later — in the 18th century A.D., treatments such as orthopedics and systemic joint exercise began to emerge as methods of treating conditions like gout. Then, in the early 19th century (around 1813), the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics was founded by Per Henrik Ling, a Swede who himself suffered from rheumatism. The Institute offered things like massage, manipulation, and exercise. Ling is considered by many as the “father” of physical therapy. Those graduating from Ling’s Institute were the first “physical therapists”, although they weren’t known by that name.
By the late 1800s and early 1900s, other countries like Great Britain and New Zealand followed suit, forming their own rudimentary physical therapy programs. In 1913, the United States began a program at Reed College whose graduates were known as “reconstruction aides”.
Interestingly, the APTA was originally a women’s only organization called the American Women’s Physical Therapy Association! It wasn’t until the end of the 1930s that the organization changed its name and started allowing men to join its ranks. The change turned out to be a good one for the APTA, and its membership increased significantly because of it!
The Evolution of Physical Therapy
Between the events of World War II and the widespread onset of polio among the American population, the demand for physical therapists grew. Today, there are more than 200 accredited physical therapy programs in the United States alone and membership in the APTA has skyrocketed from 8,000 in the 1950s to more than 74,000 today.
Today’s Physical Therapists
Physical therapy services today are offered by physical therapists who are licensed in the states in which they practice. Physical therapists — commonly called PTs — are professionals who are required to have a master’s degree or clinical doctorate from an accredited institution, as well as a state license awarded after passing rigorous testing.
PTs are trained to both assess and treat your physical condition by employing a variety of techniques (also known as modalities) designed to help you move and feel better. Orthopedic doctors often refer their patients to physical therapists to aid in the healing process of a broken bone or to help with other injuries or a condition such as arthritis.
Physical therapists work to restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or at the minimum, limit, permanent physical disabilities. A quick scan of a typical advertisement for a job as a physical therapist reveals a lot of what a PT does on a daily basis …
- administer direct patient care in accordance with the written and signed physical therapy prescription received from a referring health care professional
- create individualized treatment plans to improve/restore a patient’s mobility and to help reduce pain
- document all treatments and keep and maintain appropriate work records
- consult with health care professionals, team members, and families, as required, to ensure optimal patient care and well-being
- continually reassess and adjust treatment when necessary depending on a patient’s progress toward treatment goals
- test and measure a patient’s range of motion, strength, and muscle performance
- exhibit a complete and thorough knowledge of musculoskeletal and orthopedic injuries
As you can see by these job requirements, a PT has a lot on his or her plate on any given day! And consider the fact that these are only some of the “hard skills” needed to be a good physical therapist. A successful physical therapist also needs a number of soft skills such as compassion, the ability to communicate clearly, physical stamina and dexterity, and excellent analytical and observational skills!
If you’re in need of an excellent physical therapist in Northeastern Pennsylvania, look no further than the ace team assembled at Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehab! We offer something called a Discovery Visit — a free 30-minute session that enables you to meet one-on-one with one of our excellent doctors of physical therapy to consult about whatever physical problem is challenging you. Give us a call at 570-208-2787 to schedule your personal Discovery Visit today!