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The Science of Healing and the Art of Caring

Jan 25, 2008
As far back as 460 B.C., Hippocrates, considered the "father of medicine," described what could be considered an early form of physical therapy with his use of massage and hydrotherapy. It is also reported as a form of manual therapy in China around 2500 B.C. However, even before the need for the physical handling of patients was well understood, the ancient medical system of "Ayurevda" was developed in India which addresses healthy living along with therapeutic measures that relate to physical, mental, social and spiritual harmony.

Modern physical therapy has its roots in England, where it was developed in London in 1896, on the belief that hospital patients needed to receive mobility on a regular basis in order to maintain muscle function and mobility. Events such as the World Wars and the polio epidemic also spurred the development of physical therapy, especially in the United States. Marguerite Sanderson and Mary McMillan were leaders in the field of physical therapy, offering training to "reconstruction aides" who were responsible for caring for soldiers injured in World War I. In the 1920 and 1930s, polio raged through the United States and its primary modes of treatment involved isolation, immobilization, splinting, bed rest, and surgery. In 1940, Sister Elizabeth Kenny, an Australian bush nurse who was well known for her innovative treatment of polio, brought her treatment techniques for the management of patients with polio to the United States.

Despite its development and successful use, physical therapy has still come under criticism for the lack of research to back up its anecdotal findings. In response, organizations such as the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) have called on the profession to implement and adhere to practices based on the best scientific sources. The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) postbaccalaureate degree indicates an increase in training in the sciences, research, and interventions.

According to the APTA, physical therapists are experts in "the science of healing and the art of caring." As patients and physicians are demanding the talents of physical therapists, the PT is becoming more widely consulted for help with orthopedic conditions such as low back pain or osteoporosis; joint and soft tissue injuries; neurologic conditions; connective tissue injuries; and circulatory conditions, to name a few. Therapists may choose to seek advanced certification in a clinical specialty, such as orthopedic, neurologic, cardiovascular, pediatric, geriatric, or sports physical therapy. Today's PT can be found in a variety of settings including hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, home health agencies, schools, sports and fitness facilities, and work settings.

In today's environment of patient service within health care, the individualized "hands on" approach that characterizes physical therapists is highly valued by patients. When a patient sees a physical therapist for the first time, they can expect a thorough examination, followed by a plan of care that the physical therapist develops to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. As physical therapist and patient work side by side, the goals of the treatment plan are met, and the patient receives therapy to restore good health.

At the cornerstone of everything the physical therapist does is exercise and functional training. Depending on the needs of the patient, the physical therapist may perform certain passive movements at the end of the patient's range of motion, and/or massage a muscle to promote proper movement and function. Other therapies such as electrotherapy, ultrasound (high-frequency waves that produce heat), hot packs, and ice may also be used during therapy sessions to bring about pain relief. In order to prevent loss of mobility within a patient, therapists may also develop fitness and wellness-oriented programs to bring about healthier and more active lifestyles.
About the Author
Acheaway is now available for home use to soothe the aches and pains associated with arthritis, psoriasis, tired joints and sore muscles from an active lifestyle. Thousands have benefited from the pain relieving power of these safe, natural, non-prescription treatments.
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