The profession of physical therapy essay


Theprofession of physical therapy


Theprofession of physical therapy composes of physical therapists. Theparticular role of physical therapists is the evaluation of patientsand provision of treatment to individuals with the primary focusbeing on movement, reducing pain, restoring functionality, andprevent the occurrence of a disability. Since the origin of theprofession of physical therapy, there have been constant developmentsin the field with the hope of better services in the future. Thereare, however, various challenges in the profession such asreimbursement and the rising cost of undertaking a course in physicaltherapy. The formation of the APTA has been a crucial step inaddressing the challenges of physical therapists. This paper willdevelop on the issues highlighted above to bring out the origin ofphysical therapy profession, the evolution process, and where theprofession hopes to be in the future. The current challenges in theprofession, and how the APTA has taken steps in addressing eachchallenge will be discussed.

Theorigins of the physical therapy profession.

Physicaltherapy is ideally the management and treatment of a physicalmalfunction, disability, or pain through the use of body massage orexercises without any administration of medication, radiation, orsurgical procedures (Swisher and Page 2005). The origin of theprofession of physical therapy draws back to the early nineteenthcentury. The development of the physical therapy profession wasprecisely during the World War I (Moffat 2003). The events of the warresulted in many injuries to the soldiers. These injuries came withthe need of devising a plan to help treat the injuries leading to thedevelopment of the profession of physical therapy as a solution tothe treatment of the injuries. Besides the treatment of the injuriesfrom the effects of the World War I, the development of theprofession of physical therapy was fueled by the epidemics ofpoliomyelitis (Moffat 2003).

Evolutionof the profession of physical therapy.

Thedevelopment of the profession of physical therapy in the UnitedStates began during the events of the World War I from 1914 – 1917(Moffat 2003). The development of this profession was to help intreating the soldiers who had been injured during the events of thewar. At the start, these professionals were referred to asreconstruction aides (Swisher and Page 2005). These reconstructionaides were individuals who had taken a degree course in other fieldsbut undertook coursework and training to be in a position to givephysical therapy services. With the continuous development of theprofession, physical therapists were in a position to offer treatmentto patients suffering from poliomyelitis, which was at its highestlevel in the United States from 1920 – 1930 (Moffat 2003).

Asadvancements were made in the profession of physical therapy, thesenew professionals in the field made a decision to form a professionalorganization for the therapists. The organization was referred to asthe American Women’s Therapeutic Association whose inception was in1921 with Mary McMillan as the first president (Kigin 2009). Duringthe events of the World War II in 1939, there were many survivorsinjured during the war thanks to advancements in the profession ofphysical therapy. These survivors from war needed treatment, whichwas readily and professionally offered by the physical therapists.Towards the end of 1930, the organization of the physical therapistschanged the name from American Women’s Therapeutic Association tothe American Physiotherapy Association (Kigin 2009). In mid-1940’s,there was a significant number of physical therapists practicing theprofession in hospitals because of the efforts of the Hospital Surveyand Construction Act. Towards the end of 1940’s, the organizationfor physical therapists made a name change again to the AmericanPhysical Therapy Association (APTA) (Swisher and Page 2005). Theevents of the Korean War presented more cases of injuries to thesoldiers and needed the services of physical therapists. This needfor treatment of soldiers was a turning point for the profession ofphysical therapy because it helped prevent a looming extinction sincea development of a vaccine for poliomyelitis had resulted in theelimination of the disease in the United States.

Therewere continuous development and evolution of the profession ofphysical therapy ideally because of the injuries sustained bysoldiers during the war. As a result of this evolution, the physicaltherapists developed training and educational programs leading tophysical therapy becoming a complete profession (Kigin 2009). Thecrucial hallmark of the profession of physical therapy was during1967 when there were amendments to the Social Security Act addingdefinitions for physical therapy services for outpatients. This was asignificant milestone in the development of the profession ofphysical therapy as Social Security recognized the services ofphysical therapy as health care provider for reimbursement (Kigin2009). Since that period onwards, there has been continuous expansionin treatment areas leading to the need for specializations andsubsequent medical advancements in the profession of physicaltherapy.

Thefuture of the profession of physical therapy

Thereare expectations of transformations in the profession of physicaltherapy for it to provide a more conducive environment for thetherapists. With this regard, few issues need to be addressed for thefuture of the profession of physical therapy to remain promising. Tobegin with, there is a need for the reduction of the period requiredfor students to complete a course in physical therapy and at the sametime increase the exposure of the therapists after course work toenable them to perform their duties more efficiently (Kigin 2009).The future of the profession of physical therapy looks forward tobetter reimbursement. There is the hope of having complete control ofthe services revolving around physical therapy. This implies a changein the current system whereby there is a need to have referralsbefore clients can see physical therapists. Although some states areallowing direct access to physical therapy, the future of theprofession physical therapy looks forward to a system which allowsphysical therapists to have direct access to clients in all states inthe US.

Currentchallenges in the profession of physical therapy and the steps byAPTA in addressing the issues.

Onemajor challenge facing the profession of physical therapy is theunnecessary regulatory burden on physical therapy (Swisher and Page2005). For instance, the regulatory framework of physician-ownedphysical therapy services (POPTS). If a physical therapist works witha physician, there are challenges alongside it such as conflict ofinterest to the therapist. When a physical therapist works with aphysician, a conflict of interest arises in the sense that thephysician owner may compromise the interest of the client for hispersonal gain. Again, since the physical therapist works with thephysician, they may be forced to carry out evaluation and treatmentof the patients regardless of the needs of the patient (Swisher andPage 2005). The APTA has taken an active stand by lobbying againstPOPTS by presenting the challenges to the physical therapists as aresult of POPTS. The association has also come up strategic plansthat ensure autonomy in the practice of physical therapy bypreventing ownership of physical therapy services by physicians(Kigin 2009).

Reimbursementis equally another challenge faced by physical therapists. There is aconstant battle between physical therapists and the insurance. It isalways a fight to have the insurance carry out a reimbursement andonce done there are usually significant cuts thus paying very littleto the physical therapists (Swisher and Page 2005). The insurancefirms also make the reimbursement claims request a tedious processmaking it complicated for no reasons. There has been a formation ofcommittee by APTA to oversee activities and policies which ensurefair compensation to the physical therapists currently and in thefuture (Kigin 2009). The committee seeks to look at and address anyloophole in the reimbursement process for the physical therapists.


Theorigin of the profession of physical therapy dates back to the eventsof World War I. Since then the profession has been undergoingconstant developments for the benefit of the professionals andclients. The development of the profession has seen the birth ofvarious organizations with the latest being the APTA to promote thewellbeing of the professionals and clients as well. There has beenlaid down strategies and transformations within the profession tomake the future of the profession better. There are, however,challenges faced by the people practicing the profession. The APTAhas been in the frontline in coming up with viable solutions andstrategies on how to address the challenges and thus, the hope ofbetter environment for the physical therapists.


Kigin,C. (2009). A Systems View of Physical Therapy Care: Shifting to a NewParadigm for the Profession.Physical Therapy. 89,11, 1117-1119.

Moffat,M. (2003). The History of physical therapy in the United States.Journalof Physical Therapy Education. 17,3.

Swisher,L. and Page, C. (2005). Professionalismin physical therapy. St.Louis, Mo.: Elsevier Saunders.