• Physical therapists are medical professionals who aid accident victims, the elderly and persons with disabilities (such as cerebral palsy), arthritis, heart conditions, bone fractures and other impairments.


    Therapists work one-on-one with patients to relieve pain, restore normal function to certain parts of the body, promote better health and prevent further injury or weakness. This usually includes a series of strengthening and stretching exercises.


    A patient's range of motion, muscle strength and mobility must be assessed to develop a plan of exercises that will improve quality of life. A therapist continually monitors a patient's progress.


    Physical therapists also aid patients in acquiring assistive devices--such as wheelchairs, crutches, walkers and prostheses--that will help them become more mobile and independent.


    Some physical therapists handle a variety of patients, but others focus on a specific area, such as orthopedics, sports medicine or pediatrics.


    Physical therapists must obtain a master's or doctorate degree from a university or college with an accredited physical-therapy program and acquire state licensure.

    Job Outlook and Pay

    Faster-than-average job growth is expected (27 percent from 2006 to 2016), the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. The bureau records the average yearly salary of physical therapists as $66,200 in May 2006.


    Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physical Therapists


    American Physical Therapy Association

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