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What does a Physical Therapist do?

Physical therapists help sick or injured people improve their mobility, relieve pain, restore function and prevent disability. They provide hands-on care and patient education. Physical therapists also help individuals to avoid the loss of mobility by creating fitness programs for healthier and more active lifestyles. Their treatment reduces the need for surgery and prescription drugs.

Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, including private practices, patients' homes, hospitals, private clinics, schools, fitness facilities and nursing homes.


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Working as a Physical Therapist

Tasks a physical therapist may complete throughout the day include:

  • Consult with patients to learn about their medical history and physical condition, then establish a diagnosis.
  • Develop a treatment plan, and explain the expected outcome to the patients and their families.
  • Administer hands-on therapy, using exercises, equipment and stretching to relieve pain and improve mobility.
  • Create personalized fitness and wellness-oriented programs for patients.
  • Provide educational information about injury prevention, ways to promote physical health and ergonomics.
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How much does a Physical Therapist make in the United States?

Average base salary

Average $52.60
Low $33.82
High $81.81
Non-cash benefit
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The average salary for a physical therapist is $52.60 per hour in the United States. 83.1k salaries reported, updated at November 25, 2023

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Where can a Physical Therapist earn more?

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How much do similar professions get paid in United States?

Physical Occupational Therapist

Job openings

Average $67.00 per hour

Physical Therapist Assistant

Job openings

Average $34.56 per hour

Director of Rehabilitation

Job openings

Average $94,881 per year

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Common questions about for a Physical Therapist

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy is assisting clients recover from an accident, injury or surgery. Physical therapy also helps clients when their bodies are changing in a way that is affecting their daily physical activities.

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What happens in a normal physical therapy session?

The following are some of the activities that happen during a physical therapy session:

  • Education of clients on what to do daily that will not be injurious to their health
  • Applying practical methods such as joint mobilization for a stiff joint or massaging tight muscles
  • Employing manual manipulation by using direct manual force to increase joint movement
  • Helping patients to go through prescribed exercises like low-level stretches and a well-rounded strengthening program
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Why is the physical therapy program taking longer than planned?

A certain time period is required for certain types of body tissues to get repaired effectively. Speeding up the process can bring up a re-injury. Physical therapy requires patience and perseverance.

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Why must patients do home exercises for physical therapy?

Is there any difference between physical therapy and occupational therapy?

How does physical therapy vary for older adults?

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