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International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society
Main Content

Physical Therapy

Role of the Physical Therapist

Physical therapy is a science-based healthcare profession that views movement as central to health and well-being. 

The physical therapist's role is to prevent, treat and rehabilitate the physical symptoms associated with a movement disorder to restore maximum movement, functional ability, and participation in work, family, and society. Physical therapy aims to maximize independence and quality of life from diagnosis and throughout the course of the disorder/disease. 

Physical therapy involves a process of physical examination, goal-setting, plan of care, and intervention. The physical therapist assesses the impact of a movement disorder on gait, posture, balance, falls, transfers, and upper limb function. The consequences of inactivity and disuse, such as muscle weakness, joint stiffness, pain, and cardiovascular deconditioning, are also addressed. 

Physical therapists use the best available evidence to inform patient management, which they plan according to the individual’s background, needs, disease stage, and medical profile. The physical therapist considers the effect of medication on functional performance and communicates with the movement disorders specialist to optimize drug and surgical management. Physical therapy is regulated, and physical therapists operate autonomously as independent practitioners and multidisciplinary team members. Physical therapists have an active role in patient management, educating patients and professionals, and advancing clinical practice through research. 


Originally contributed by Lynn Rochester, PhD and Mariella Graziano, MSc, BSc (Hons); Maintained by the Health Professionals SIG.


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