• Kateri Kane

What is PT?


My name is Kateri Kane. I am a doctor of physical therapy (DPT) working at Advanced Physical Therapy and Fitness, a private orthopedic physical therapy clinic in Mechanicsburg, PA. My goal and the goal of this company in writing this blog is to educate the general public about various physical therapy-related issues, and provide viable information to the community regarding injury prevention, common pathologies related to PT, the effects of aging, your rights as a patient, and many other topics. The first issue we would like to introduce is “What is PT?” because this is a question we have heard frequently.


I can’t count the number of times I have had a patient tell me, “I didn’t know you could treat that,” or “You’re a PT? Can you give me a massage?” It’s frustrating as a physical therapist, but it’s also eye-opening. How is anyone supposed to know what we do unless we get the word out there?


According to Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, physical therapy is, “Rehabilitation concerned with the restoration of function and prevention of disabilities following disease, injury, or loss of body part. The therapeutic properties of exercise, heat, cold, electricity, ultraviolet, and massage are used to improve circulation, strengthen muscles, encourage the return of motion, and train or retrain an individual to perform the activities of daily living.” In other words, we are NOT simply “glorified masseuses.” Physical therapists go through 6-7 years of schooling on average and receive either a master’s degree or a doctoral degree. Some seasoned clinicians still have bachelor’s degrees, but all current programs require at least a master’s level and have phased to primarily doctoral programs.


Now, we have nothing against massage therapists, occupational therapists, physical trainers, athletic trainers, or chiropractors. Our goal is simply to inform the general public that each of these professions is different and has a unique set of skills.


As PTs, we have the opportunity to treat a WIDE variety of individuals: from a person with a total knee replacement to a soldier with a traumatic brain injury, or from a pregnant woman with low back pain to a child with cerebral palsy, and the list goes on. There are a multitude of niches in which a PT can focus including orthopedics, neuroscience, cardiopulmonary, vestibular, pediatrics, women’s health, manual therapy, aquatics, and even military service.

Physical therapists utilize modalities such as electrical stimulation, ultrasound, laser, heat/cold, traction, and techniques such as massage and taping to supplement treatments; but by no means are these modalities and techniques the only forms of treatment we use. We treat with exercise, balance training, manual therapy, education, and various other specific techniques to improve patient function with the primary focus of helping each individual reach a greater level of independence.


We plan to go into greater depth regarding the function of a physical therapist in future posts, but our hope is that this introduction has cleared up some questions you may have been having. Our next entry will relate to the topic of balance, what factors may cause deficits, and what you can do to decrease your risk for falls. We encourage any comments or suggestions, especially to let us know what you would like to hear about most. Thank you for reading and stay active.

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