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About the Practice of Physical Therapy

What do physical therapists actually do?

When a PT sees a patient for the first time, they examine that individual and develop a plan of care. The goal is to promote the patient’s ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. PTs will also work with individuals to prevent loss of mobility by developing fitness- and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles.

Therapeutic exercise and functional training are the cornerstones of physical therapist treatment. PTs may use other techniques such as electrotherapy, ultrasound (high-frequency waves that produce heat), hot packs, and ice in addition to other treatments when appropriate.

What do physical therapist assistants do?

Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) provide physical therapy services under the direction and supervision of a PT. Care provided by a PTA may include teaching patients/clients exercise for mobility, strength and coordination, training for activities such as walking with crutches, canes, or walkers, massage, and the use of physical agents and electrotherapy such as ultrasound and electrical stimulation.

Do you need a license to be a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant?

Yes. In Oregon, a physical therapist or physical therapy assistant must be licensed or hold an Oregon compact privilege in order to work as a PT or PTA. 

(Adapted from FSBPT)

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