What Is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy (PT) is a patient-preferred, non-pharmaceutical approach for addressing injury, chronic pain, or restricted mobility. As a less-invasive approach than surgery, PT can help patients rehabilitate and regain bodily function, manage pain, prevent injury, and improve mobility, flexibility, and balance.

Physical therapy is prescribed most often to patients with serious pain or mobility issues, ranging from athletes and individuals recovering from injuries to individuals with chronic conditions and developmental challenges.

The Benefits of Physical Therapy

Reducing or Eliminating Pain

Recovering from or preventing injuries

Decreasing fall risk to enhance safety and independence

Improving mobility

Improving balance

Avoiding or recovering from surgery

Managing age-related issues such as joint pain and arthritis

Recovering from a stroke

Avoiding dependence on opioids or other pain medications

Improving cardiovascular function

Managing chronic diabetes and cardiovascular conditions

Addressing women’s health issues including pregnancy and post-partum care

Who Provides
Physical Therapy?

Physical therapists are state-licensed healthcare professionals who have trained for years to provide safe, personalized, and optimized care to patients who can benefit from physical therapy.

Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) are healthcare professionals who provide physical therapy services under the direction and supervision of a licensed physical therapist.

The Value of Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is an effective, lower cost alternative to invasive procedures and pharmacological treatments. Physical therapy results in lower healthcare costs due to lower likelihood of receiving opioid prescription medications, epidural injections, follow-up advanced imaging, and follow-up physician visits, without compromising patient outcomes.

Physical therapy also helps reduce total spending on Medicare Parts A & B.

On average, spending for beneficiaries who receive physical therapy as the first treatment option are:

  • 19% lower than total average Medicare spending for patients who receive injections first.
  • 75% lower than total average spending for Medicare patients who undergo surgery first.

Physical therapy is often practiced in an outpatient setting because many patients prefer care in community-based physical therapy offices that are conveniently located close to home. Under the care of physical therapists and PTAs, patients receive safe, effective, and personalized care and build relationships with healthcare professionals who best understand the physical, psychological, financial, and social contexts of the community.