Physical therapy or physiotherapy, an art of relieving pain, is as old as pain itself. Since ancient times, there have been masseuses who made a living, out of helping people with disabilities to regain their strength.
In modern times, the concept of physical therapy is not just restricted to massage but it's much broader in its scope and applications. Today's physical therapists study human anatomy, metabolism, the science of physical movements, and all physical aspects related to alleviation of disability of all kinds.
The human body is one of the most complex systems ever. It's prone to problems, if not well-maintained or damaged. Accidents, neurological disorders, stress, injuries, and certain diseases render a person to be disabled, in one way or the other.
At such times, therapists come into the picture, to activate and optimize the potential of a person's body, in spite of inherent limitations.
The person may be suffering from any possible kind of disability, which prevents him from leading a normal life. The therapist chalks out a plan of recovery for the person, after studying his case in detail and helps him as a trainer, to follow the planned regimen consistently.
Training to Become One
To become a professional physical therapist, one must acquire a master's degree in this subject, which includes a hands-on internship, giving the much-needed practical experience.
You may have a bachelor's degree in any discipline but you will need a knowledge of basic physics, biology, and chemistry. Many universities offer a master's course in this discipline. Selection includes an interview which tests your motivation for pursuing a career in this field.
The syllabus for such a course includes courses in human anatomy, medicine, basics of physical therapy, lots of practical courses, as well as specialized subjects like speech therapy, sports, medicine, etc.
Many institutes also offer doctorate level programs which include a higher level of understanding and research on specialized topics. They include problems that have not yet yielded to physical therapy treatment as well as methods of improving existing techniques.
Specializations in Physical Therapy
Physical therapy has become a specialized science with many branches, each devoted to a specific section of the body or a specific age group. Some of them are:
Physical therapists specializing in this field deal with bone injuries, muscle sprains, tears, etc. The patients may be accident victims, athletes with injuries, or people with amputations, who are learning to use their prosthetic appendages.
A thorough knowledge of bone and muscle anatomy, as well as body movement dynamics, is necessary. They specialize in strength exercises, which help the person in gradually building strength.
People specializing in geriatrics deal with senior citizens and their special problems. Disabilities, coupled with age-induced deterioration of body, adds to problems in older people. Therapists in this field deal with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease patients, as well as old people with joint, knee, or hip replacements.
According to the physical ability and nature of problem, related to these old people, they prepare a comprehensive exercise program for their rehabilitation. Special care needs to be taken while designing the program, considering past medical history and other multitude of factors.
Therapists in this field deal with victims of neurological diseases who have physically disabling symptoms. They rehabilitate victims of cerebral palsy, ataxia, Alzheimer's, epilepsy and autistic children. It is a challenging job of designing and implementing a program so that patients can live as normal a life as possible while fighting their disabilities.
People in this field need to be good in dealing with people and understand the special needs and idiosyncrasies of these patients. You need to be a part of their world to understand them and connect with them.
Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation
This field is in need of a lot of people to help an increasingly alarming rate of heart disease victims, who undergo surgeries or are recovering from heart attacks. They need a planned diet and exercise routine, that will prevent recurrence of heart problems. Trained professionals in this field are in a lot of demand all over the world.
Professionals in this specialization deal with children, who may have acquired congenital or genetic disorder-induced disabilities. These disabilities may be musculoskeletal, neurological, or a communication disability. They need special care and understanding.
The people in this field need to chalk out a program that addresses the child's special needs and lets him/her develop self-confidence and belief in his/her abilities.
In today's age, sports is totally a commercial enterprise. Every athlete needs to be at the peak of his or her physical abilities and need to perform consistently. Injuries are often a problem. That is where, therapists come into the picture. They not only help athletes in recovering from injuries but they train them on how to avoid them in the first place.
A holistic training program, that is modeled according to the specific body type and requirements of the athlete is chalked out. Professionals in this field have some of the highest salaries.
As one can see, professionals with these specializations require, not just theoretical expertise, but also an ability to reach out and connect with people and understand them. Interpersonal skills are a major requirement of this profession. You have to be a good motivator.
Do you remember Helen Keller's story and the role played by her teacher, the therapist, in her fight against her disabilities? This is the kind of dedication you need to do this job. If you want to experience the joy of watching a fellow human being fighting against all odds and standing up back again on his feet, this is the profession for you.