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Nature of work Physical therapists provide service that help restore function improve mobility relieve pain and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease They restore maintain and promote overall fitness and health Therapists examine patients medical histories and then test and measure the patients strength range of motion balance and coordination They also determine patients ability to be independent and reintegrate into the community or work place after injury or illness Next physical therapists develop treatment plans describing a treatment strategy its purpose and its anticipated outcome Physical therapists assistants under the direction and supervision of a physical therapist may be involved in implementing treatment plans with patients Treatment often includes exercise for patients who have been immobilized and lack flexibility strength or endurance Physical therapists encourage patients to use their own muscles to increase their flexibility and their range of motion before finally advancing to other exercises that improve strength balance coordination and endurance Physical therapists also use electrical stimulation hot packs or cold compresses and ultrasound to relieve pain and reduce swelling They also may use traction or deep tissue massage to relieve pain As treatment continues physical therapists document the patients progress conduct periodic examinations and modify treatments when necessary Some physical therapists treat a wide range of ailments others specialize in areas such as pediatrics geriatrics orthopedics sports medicine neurology and cardiopulmonary physical therapy Working Conditions Physical therapists practice in hospitals clinics and private offices that have specially equipped facilities or they treat patients in hospital rooms homes or schools In 2002 most full-time physical therapists worked a 40-hour week some worked evenings and weekends to fit their patients schedules More than 1in 5 physical therapists worked part time The job can be physically demanding because therapists often have to stoop kneel crouch lift and stand for long periods In addition physical therapists move heavy equipment and lift patients
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