Physical Therapy Basics Doctors often recommend physical therapy (PT) for kids and teens who have been injured or who have movement problems from an illness, disease, or disability. After an injury, physical therapists work to decrease pain, improve movement, and help kids return to daily activities. They teach kids exercises designed to help them regain strength and range of motion, and also show kids and families how to prevent future injuries. Physical therapy might be needed any time a problem with movement limits someone's daily activities. So doctors often recommend PT for kids with: sports injuries developmental delays cerebral palsy genetic disorders orthopedic disabilities/injuries heart and lung conditions birth defects (such as spina bifida) effects of in-utero drug or alcohol exposure acute trauma head injury limb deficiencies muscle diseases What Physical Therapists Do 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 balance and coordination activities adaptive play aquatic (water) therapy improving circulation around injuries by using heat, cold, exercise, electrical stimulation, massage, and ultrasound training to build strength around an injury flexibility exercises to increase range of motion instruction on how to avoid injuries safety and prevention programs During a visit, a physical therapist may: measure a child's flexibility and strength analyze how a child walks and runs (the child's gait) identify existing and potential 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 Finding a Physical Therapist Physical therapists typically work in hospitals, private practices, fitness centers, and rehabilitation and research facilities. Ask your doctor for recommendations, contact your medical insurance provider, or check out the American Physical Therapy Association's website to find physical therapists in your area. Back to Articles Related Articles Delayed Speech or Language Development Knowing what's "normal" and what's not in speech and language development can help you figure out if you should be concerned or if your child is right on schedule. Read More Autism Spectrum Disorder Autism spectrum disorder affects a child's ability to communicate and learn. Early intervention and treatment can help kids improve skills and do their best. Read More Knee Injuries Healthy knees are needed for many activities and sports and getting hurt can mean some time sitting on the sidelines. Read More Dealing With Sports Injuries You practiced hard and made sure you wore protective gear, but you still got hurt. Read this article to find out how to take care of sports injuries - and how to avoid getting them. Read More Physical Therapy Physical therapy helps people get back to full strength and movement - and manage pain - in key parts of the body after an illness or injury. Read More Preventing Children's Sports Injuries Participation in sports can teach kids sportsmanship and discipline. But sports also carry the potential for injury. Here's how to protect your kids. Read More Going to a Physical Therapist Physical therapy uses exercises and other special treatments to help people move their bodies. Find out more in this article for kids. Read More Cerebral Palsy Cerebral palsy is one of the most common developmental disabilities in the United States. It affects a person's ability to move and coordinate body movements. Read More Cerebral Palsy Cerebral palsy (CP) affects a child's muscle tone, movement, and more. This article explains causes, diagnosis, treatment, and coping. Read More Occupational Therapy Occupational therapy can help improve kids' cognitive, physical, and motor skills and build their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.