Pediatric physical therapy is a subspecialty that treats children with disabilities, injuries, and other conditions which impact their ability to move or function. Pediatric physical therapists seek to improve motor control, restore physical function, relieve pain, and to prevent persistent impairments. Pediatric physical therapists treat children from premature infancy to 18 years of age.
Conditions that a pediatric physical therapist may treat include surgery or injury recovery, chronic physical diseases (such as muscular dystrophy), cardiovascular conditions, deconditioning (such as lack of muscle use), brain or spinal conditions, or neurological trauma (such as strokes and concussions).
Diagnosis is accomplished through a variety of methods, the foremost being physical examination. Pediatric physical therapists then lead patients through movement tests to assess reflexes and physical ability. Alternative diagnostic procedures include a review of the patient's medical history and additional neurological testing. Ultimately, numerous physical tests and screenings are available; the therapist may use a specific test depending on the child's condition.
Personalized physical therapy programs will set goals for patients to improve in their motor skills and strength. Treatments are tailored to a child's age, regular activity, and environment.
Pediatric physical therapy treatments include, among others:
Pediatric physical therapists might also prescribe adaptive equipment such as a splint, back brace, or special shoes. Patients may also be required to adopt a daily at-home exercise regimen. Meanwhile, pediatric physical therapists might restrict the amount of athletic activity a patient can participate in to avoid reinjury or overuse.
Pediatric physical therapists may collaborate with pediatric doctors, pediatric cardiologists, pediatric neurologists, occupation and speech-language therapists, and child life specialists.