If you’ve been referred to Physical Therapy by a doctor, a friend has recommended it to you, or you’re wondering if Physical Therapy might solve a nagging issue you have, you’ve probably asked yourself: what does a Physical Therapist actually do?  This is a great question, especially because a Physical Therapist’s role in your recovery or rehabilitation can be super broad! Let’s explore what Physical Therapists do in an outpatient setting and how a Physical Therapist could be your secret weapon for rehab and injury prevention!

How can a Physical Therapist help me?

Physical Therapists (PTs) are movement experts.  We are very good at identifying breakdowns and dysfunction in the human body and the way it moves.

For example, if you’ve said any of the following sentences:

  • “My shoulder hurts when I raise my arm overhead…”
  • “I just had a baby and my stomach muscles feel non-existent…”
  • “My knee hurts when I run and while going down stairs…”
  • “My lower back gets sore after sitting or standing for a while…”
  • “My foot hurts first thing in the morning when I get out of bed…”

…then a PT is the perfect person to start with to get a diagnosis and start treating your dysfunction or pain.  Not only are PTs phenomenal at identifying root causes of injury, but we are also good at identifying weaknesses or patterns that may result in an injury later on.

How Does a Physical Therapist evaluate Me?

Physical Therapist evaluating a new patient.

Our focus as PTs is on the musculoskeletal system– your bones, muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissue.  A PT will diagnose disorders of the musculoskeletal system by watching you move and testing your strength and mobility of your tissues and joints.

Your PT will team up with you to learn about your goals and develop a plan to restore your function, reduce your pain, and prevent disability or recurrence of your symptoms.

Extensive research has been published that supports PT as an effective first line treatment for most acute or chronic musculoskeletal injuries. In fact, some studies show PT is even more effective at reducing pain and restoring function compared to pain medication and even surgeries! 

What does treatment from a Physical Therapist look like?

Physical Therapy can include hands-on manual therapy techniques to restore normal soft tissue length and joint mobility, exercise to improve your control and strength, and a lot of education so you understand your body better and have the tools you need to stay well when you are done with PT.

Your PT is constantly checking and rechecking your progress towards your goals to ensure you are on the right track. 

Physical Therapist applying treatment to patient

What is a Physical Therapist’s role in my life?

You can expect to spend substantial time with your PT over the span of weeks or months as it takes time for the human body to gradually rewire the way it moves and get stronger.  By the time you’ve completed your care plan and have achieved your goals, you will have someone who knows your body exceptionally well, understands your lifestyle, and is on your team.

Here at Life’s Work PT, we are big advocates for keeping your PT for life.   Having a great PT who can see you through various life changes, aging gracefully, and different bodily aches, pains, or rehab processes is a way to have someone consistently in your corner – a steadfast advocate constantly cheering you on and partnering with you in achieving your desired health and wellness.

Once you’ve found a PT you like, consider seeing them annually for a wellness check-up so they can evaluate you, manage your exercise routine, and give you advice on ergonomics, posture, and your body’s well-being.

As a PT I can say without hesitation: We’ve got your back!


Check out these helpful posts on how to find a Physical Therapist in your area:

How To Find a Good PT Who I’ll Actually Like

How To Find a Pelvic Health Physical Therapist