What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy (PT) is a branch of rehabilitative health that aims to preserve, restore or improve mobility and function. Physical therapy utilizes non-invasive, non-medical tools and treatment techniques to help reduce pain, aid in rehabilitation, and prevent disability. PT is often recommended for individuals recovering from an illness, injury, or surgery. It has also been proven effective for pain management, injury prevention, and improved physical fitness. The main goals of physical therapy are to facilitate healing, optimize functioning, and maximize quality of life.

What is the purpose of a physical therapist?

Physical therapists are highly trained healthcare professionals who diagnose and manage movement dysfunction, customize treatment plans according to the needs of each patient, and execute evidence-based techniques and methodologies designed to help patients achieve optimal functioning.  Physical therapists work closely with physicians and other members of the treatment team to help patients recover, rehabilitate, and promote safe independent living.

Are there different types of physical therapy programs?


Yes. The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) offers certification in nine specialty areas, including: orthopedic; geriatric; cardiovascular and pulmonary; neurological; clinical electrophysiology; oncology; sports; women’s health; and pediatric. Regardless of the specialty, all physical therapy aims to maximize patient independence and quality of life.

What types of treatment techniques do physical therapists offer?

Physical therapy encompasses a range of treatment methods designed to address everything from swelling and muscular spasms to connective tissue injuries and impaired brain functioning. Depending on the injury or illness, physical therapy methods employed may include:

  • Massage – to ease pain, relax muscles, or increase circulation

  • Cold therapy – to reduce or prevent inflammation

  • Heat therapy – to decrease pain or increase mobility

  • Electrical stimulation – to restore muscular strength and function

  • Postural re-education – to maintain correct spinal alignment

  • Joint mobilization – to relieve pain and increase joint flexibility

  • Exercise – to improve flexibility, strength, coordination, or endurance

  • Gait training – to improve balance and endurance

  • Functional activity training – to promote safe independence in daily living

No two physical therapy care plans will look exactly the same. Physical therapists develop customized treatment plans based on their findings during individual evaluations and assessments.

What are the best physical therapy exercises?

The best physical therapy exercises are the ones that have been specifically chosen for the individual by a licensed physical therapist.  Physical therapists perform assessments and evaluations to determine which treatments and methodologies will be most effective for rehabilitating, restoring, or improving movement and functionality for each patient. For example, a PT treatment plan for an individual with Alzheimer’s disease or a brain injury will have very different exercises than a care plan for someone recovering from knee replacement surgery.

Similarly, two people could be prescribed two very different sets of PT exercises for neck pain because the pain is the result of different conditions: one that requires stretching, and one that would be exacerbated by stretching. Every body is different, and the best physical therapy exercises are always the ones prescribed for an individual by his or her physical therapist.


What is the difference between physical therapy and occupational therapy?

Both physical therapy and occupational therapy aim to improve day-to-day functioning and maximize independence, and while there is some overlap between the two, there are also significant differences.

Physical therapists focus their evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment on the physical source of the injured tissues and muscles. Occupational therapists focus on adapting tasks and modifying the environment to compensate for functional limitations.  In the case of a person recovering from hip replacement surgery, for example, a physical therapist might prescribe exercises to help strengthen muscles around the hip, while an occupational therapist might provide adaptive equipment to aid with bathing, cooking, and dressing.  Physical therapy and occupational therapy are often part of the same overall care plan for individuals recovering from illness, injury, or surgery.

What can I expect from physical therapy at Bella Vista Health Center?

At Bella Vista Health Center, our licensed physical therapists are highly skilled, compassionate, and dedicated to providing each patient with quality care by way of evidence-based outcome-driven services. Our physical therapy programs begin with an evaluation and continue with development and execution of a customized care plan designed to facilitate rapid recovery. At Bella Vista Health Center, you can expect compassion, excellence in care, and a team of medical professionals eager to help you achieve optimal wellness so you can live your best life.


To learn more about Bella Vista Health Center’s physical therapy services, please call us at (619) 644-1000.