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What does a Physiotherapy Assistant do?

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  • Written By: Sandra Koehler
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2016
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A health professional trained to assist a physical therapist is called a physiotherapy assistant. A physiotherapy assistant is trained in all aspects of physical therapy. The main job of these health practitioners is to treat an individual's physical limitations according to the treatment regiment set up by a physical therapist.

Also known as a physical therapist assistant or PTA, these skilled technicians require specialized higher education of at least two years after the completion of high school. In most instances, a license to practice is necessary. Under the direct or indirect supervision of a physical therapist, a physiotherapy assistant's job is to provide physical therapy to patients or clients in a variety of settings.

Physical therapy is the administration of various treatment protocols to increase and maximize a person's overall function and mobility. Included in these protocols are things such as stretching, strengthening, and the use of modalities. Modalities are tools and methods, such as ultrasound, traction, and manual techniques like massage and assisted stretching, to maximize quality of life by decreasing pain and tightness issues, and increasing functional mobility. Performing activities of daily living, as known as functional mobility, includes any movement necessary to carry on everyday actions such as personal care, walking, or leisure activities such as hobbies or sports.

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The physiotherapy assistant instructs and, when necessary, assists the patient with exercise, stretching, and strengthening programs to increase range of motion or mobility of a body part. The PTA may also instruct and assist with gross motor skills, such as bed mobility skills and moving from a seated position to a standing position or transferring into a vehicle. Gait or walking assessment and training, and instruction and help with assistive devices such as canes and walkers, is also an integral part of the physiotherapy assistant's job. When ambulation is impaired, the PTA may also aid in the design and use of specialized wheelchairs, which aid in increasing quality of life through proper positioning and providing an adapted means of mobility.

Not only does a physiotherapy assistant work alongside a physical therapist, he or she also works in conjunction with other healthcare providers. This is necessary to provide accurate care and monitoring of the patient's overall health and capacity for physical activity. This means that along with the physical aspects of a physiotherapy assistant's occupation, he or she must be able to accurately report progress and problems to maximize recovery. This includes verbal and written methods to keep the patient's team of healthcare professionals informed.

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