What Do Physical Therapists Do?

A physical therapist is the healthcare professional most involved in your rehabilitation after you suffer a stroke or injury. Tasked with improving your mobility and helping you manage your pain, your physical therapist’s methodologies will vary depending on the injury or condition that caused you to seek out his or her services.

Common conditions and injuries that can benefit greatly from a physical therapist’s intervention include the following:

  • A stroke that renders one side of your body partially paralyzed or significantly weaker than the other side
  • A spinal cord injury that renders you partially or completely paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair in order to get around
  • A crush or other severe injury that requires amputation of one of your limbs
  • A fracture, sprain or strain of your leg, knee or ankle that decreases your mobility for a significant period of time
  • A fracture, sprain or strain of your shoulder, arm, elbow or wrist that decreases your ability to fully move and use your arm or hand

Specific Duties

Depending on your specific needs, you can expect your physical therapist to do the following:

  • Review your medical records to determine which therapies will do you the most good
  • Assess your current level of mobility and function to establish a baseline by which to measure your progress
  • Develop an individualized treatment plan for you, taking into consideration your previous lifestyle and your goals for the future
  • Use stretching and range-of-motion maneuvers, massage, exercises and special equipment to ease your pain, prevent additional injury or pain and help you recover to the fullest extent possible
  • Monitor and document your progress and, if necessary, modify your treatment plan accordingly

Work Environment

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 258,200 physical therapists worked in the U.S. in 2019. Where they worked included the following:

  • 33% for physical and occupational facilities
  • 26% for hospitals
  • 11% for home healthcare services
  • 8% for themselves, i.e., self-employed
  • 6% for nursing homes and residential care facilities


It will comfort you to know that, just like your doctors and nurses, your physical therapist is a professional healthcare provider licensed by your state. Not only has he or she passed your state’s licensing examination, but before taking it, he or she earned a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from an institution accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in in Physical Therapy Education. Virtually all states also require PTs to take a specified number of hours of continuing education each year in order to maintain their licenses, as a physical therapist, like from AmeriWell Clinics, can explain.

For all of the above reasons, you should seriously consider engaging the services of a physical therapist whenever you suffer an illness or injury that leaves you struggling to perform the functions you previously performed without much, if any thought. It may be the best decision of your life.