Ancient Greek physicians like Hippocrates and Galenus utilized massage and hydrotherapy to treat patients from as early as 460 B.C. The first professional organization to administer physical therapy was the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics in Sweden created in 1813. Physical Therapy was introduced in the United States in 1914 when Reed College began graduating “reconstruction aides.” In 1974, the Orthopedic Section of the APTA was formed for physical therapists that specialized in orthopedics. That year, the International Federation of Orthopedic Manipulative Therapy was formed, and brought physical therapy into the mainstream.
Physical therapy has a variety of sub-specialties, including: cardiopulmonary, geriatric, neurological, orthopedic, pediatric, and integumentary. In general, physical therapy focuses on improving the patient's quality of life physically, emotionally, and socially. Therapists study a patient’s history and physical examination to diagnose problems and create a therapy plan. Physical Therapy is commonly used by athletes, people recovering from invasive or reconstructive surgery or with other types of injuries causing impaired movement.
Students wishing to pursue a profession in physical therapy are encouraged, but not required, to enroll in an undergraduate physical therapy program. Upon completion of their undergraduate degree in either PT or a related health field such as biology, students must enroll in an accredited physical therapy post-graduate program. They can either pursue a master’s degree, which typically requires 2 to 2.5 years to complete, or a doctoral degree, which can span 3 years or more.
Credentials and Regulation Bodies
The Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) is the body that credits and sets standards and regulations for post-graduate physical therapy programs. All 50 states regulate the practice of physical therapy and require therapists to be licensed. Licensure qualifications vary by state, however, the standard usually requires; a graduate degree from an accredited school, a passing mark on the National Physical Therapy Examination and state board examinations, and proof of continuing education in physical therapy. In addition, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) sets and regulates practicing standards for its nationwide members.
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is the main national professional organization for physical therapists. This organization represents over 74,000 professionals nationwide and aims to promote the research, advancement, and role of physical therapy in public health.
Fees per physical therapy session range from $200-$300 per hour. Sessions are generally offered in packaged programs in order for the patient to see the greatest benefits. Most health insurance plans cover physical therapy. Patients should call their insurance company to understand coverage.