What Kind of Patients do Physical Therapists Treat?

Many people associate physical therapy with recovery from an injury or surgery, but physical therapy is a wide-ranging treatment program that helps patients of all ages with a wide variety of health problems. Physical therapy primarily aims to ease pain and help improve mobility, prevent disability, and manage chronic illnesses.

Physical Therapy Treatment methods typically include:

  • Stretching

  • Strength training

  • Mobility training

  • Endurance exercises

  • Joint mobilization

  • Manual therapy

  • Electrical muscle stimulation

There are five main specialties within physical therapy, plus several emerging sub-specialties to help an even wider range of patients. Here are the main types of patients that physical therapy treats:

Orthopedic patients

Orthopedic physical therapy aims to restore function to the musculoskeletal system, including joints, tendons, ligaments, and bones. Patients recovering from sports injuries fall into this category, along with patients healing from fractures, sprains, tendonitis, bursitis, and rehabilitation from orthopedic surgery.

Geriatric patients

Geriatric physical therapy is focused on conditions unique to older adults that affect their mobility and physical function, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, joint or hip replacement, balance disorders, and dementia. Physical therapy can also help seniors recovering from injuries related to falls. The goal of geriatric physical therapy centers around restored mobility, reduced pain, and increased physical fitness. Geriatric patients can also benefit from treatments that accommodate physical limitations.

Neurological patients

Neurological physical therapy treats patients with conditions and impairments including Alzheimer’s disease, brain injury, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, and stroke. Treatment plans focus on achieving the highest level of function for living as independently as possible by increasing limb responsiveness and muscle strength, and adapting to visual, balance, and mobility impairments.

Cardiopulmonary patients

Cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy helps patients recovering from a heart attack or suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or pulmonary fibrosis. With treatments focused on increasing physical endurance and stamina, the ultimate goal of cardiovascular physical therapy is to improve functional independence.

Pediatric patients

Though Bella Vista Health Center does not offer it, pediatric physical therapy definitely deserves a mention here. It treats infants, toddlers, children and adolescents suffering from injuries or diseases including orthopedic disabilities, muscle diseases, genetic disorders, limb deficiencies, head trauma, acute injury, birth defects or developmental delays Pediatric physical therapy has the best chance for success when patients are treated as soon as they experience problems that inhibit natural movement and learning.

Emerging sub-specialties in physical therapy

Conditions that physical therapists treat have expanded in recent years, with several emerging sub-specialties now available, including:

  • Vestibular rehabilitation, which treats patients with balance and coordination problems caused by deficits in the inner ear, such as vertigo or dizziness.

  • Pelvic floor rehabilitation, focusing on relieving pelvic pain, reducing lymphatic swelling, and controlling fecal and urinary incontinence caused by medical conditions, injury, or surgery.

  • Decongestive therapy, treating patients with lymphedema and other conditions that involve fluid accumulation.

Patient-centered physical therapy at Bella Vista

Bella Vista Health Center’s physical therapy department provides evidence-based, outcome-driven therapy programs that are customized for each patient. If you or someone you love is in need of physical therapy in San Diego, contact us today at (619) 644-1000 for more information or a tour of our 5-Star Skilled Nursing Facility.