What Does a Physical Therapist Do?
Pediatric physical therapists are trained to assess the motor development and abilities of children and have the expertise to determine the appropriate treatment for physical limitations or functional impairments. They may use exercise in the form of play and/or use modalities as treatment techniques. Their goals may include improving a child's functional skills and preventing or limiting disability in a variety of areas.
- Lower Body Neuromuscular Assessment - Neuromuscular components assessed include reflexes, muscle tone, strength, endurance, postural alignment and control and soft tissue integrity of the lower extremities. These components are the foundation for the development of gross motor skills. Read more information on neuromuscular testing.
- Development - Delayed development refers to the full spectrum of development from mild delays to significant disabilities. Although newborn infants can move their arms and legs, these motions are reflexes that a baby cannot consciously start or stop. If one suspects developmental delay, physical therapy may help to improve motor skills. Read more information on the development of gross motor skills.
- Mobility - It is important for children to be as independently mobile as possible. Prolonged bed rest or wheelchair use poses a number of risks including the development of weakness and muscle contractures, decreased bone strength, decreased function and self-confidence. The encouragement of independent mobility, whether by assisting an infant in learning to crawl or teaching someone with a recent amputation to use a prosthesis, is a vital component of the physical therapy plan of care.
- Trunk and lower extremity musculoskeletal assessment - Physical Therapists know how the musculoskeletal system works, yet recognize that each individual is unique. They can determine a child’s overall level of fitness and function and suggest activities and exercise to improve range of motion, strength, balance, coordination and postural alignment
- Edema - Compression garments or use of elastic wraps combined with massage may be helpful in the treatment of peripheral edema. However, these interventions should be used cautiously and are contraindicated in the presence of phlebitis or thrombophlebitis, edema due to heart or kidney failure, and in the presence of potentially systemic infection or over malignant tumor or open wounds.
- Non-pharmacologic pain management - The goal of pain management is not only to relieve pain, but in so doing, to maintain quality of life.