Doctors often recommend physical therapy for kids who have been injured or have movement problems from an illness, disease, or disability.
After an injury, physical therapists are often able to relieve pain and help kids resume daily activities. Physical therapists teach kids exercises designed to help them regain strength and range of motion, and also show them how to prevent a recurring injury.
Physical therapy (PT) may be needed any time a child has difficulty moving in such a way that it limits daily activities.
Physical therapists use a variety of treatments to help build strength, improve movement, and strengthen skills needed to complete daily activities.
Physical therapists might guide kids through:
developmental activities such as crawling and walking
training to build strength around an injury
flexibility exercises to increase range of motion
balance and coordination activities
aquatic (water) therapy
safety and prevention programs
instruction on how to avoid injuries
improving circulation around injuries by using heat, cold, exercise, electrical stimulation, massage, and ultrasound
During a visit, a physical therapist may:
measure the child's flexibility and strength
analyze the way the child walks and runs (a child's gait)
identify potential and existing problems
consult with other medical, psychiatric, and school personnel about an individual education plan (IEP)
provide instructions for home exercise programs
recommend when returning to sports is safe
What to Look for in a Physical Therapist
As of 2010, entry-level physical therapists must earn a master's degree or receive a doctoral degree in physical therapy (a DPT) from an accredited college program. Physical therapists also must pass a state-administered national exam.
States also may impose their own regulations for practicing PT. You can find out more information about any other requirements for local physical therapists by contacting your state's licensure board.
Finding a Physical Therapist
Physical therapists typically work in hospitals, private practices, fitness centers, and rehabilitation and research facilities. Ask your doctor for recommendations or contact your state's physical therapy association for names of local licensed physical therapists. Coaches or phys-ed teachers at your child's school also might be able to recommend a physical therapist.