The typical picture of a physical therapist includes working with an injured athlete, someone recovering from surgery, or maybe a person with a chronic medical problem. But when you picture a PT, you should think of kids too. Physical therapists are trained to work with patients of any age. Some even specialize in pediatrics. What kind of things do PTs help kids with? We're glad you asked!
Kids can have all of the same injuries adults can - sprained ankles, painful joints, and athletic injuries. A PT can help kids with these things just like they can an adult. Kids also have some injuries particular to them - things like Osgood-Schlatter's Disease or jumper's knee. Physical therapists are trained to deal with them too.
Some problems only affect children. Others continue into adulthood, but are typically treated during childhood. Some children are delayed in hitting their gross motor milestones - things like sitting up on their own, rolling, standing, walking, jumping and running. Other children show difficulty with coordination - activities like hand motions to "wheels on the bus", feeding themselves with utensils, moving awkwardly or slowly, or even tripping or bumping into things a lot. Physical therapists can help encourage development of gross motor skills and coordination to help these kids get back on track.
Torticollis is a postural issue that usually becomes noticeable shortly after birth. Babies with torticollis typically hold their heads tipped to one side, then rotate their head towards the opposite side. This is caused by a tight neck muscle. Research has shown that early referral to a physical therapist is a very effective treatment. The PT usually shows the baby's caregivers ways to gently stretch the neck, and activities to encourage the baby to move his or her head into a more neutral position.
One more thing people don't commonly think of in children is pelvic floor issues. You might be surprised at how common they are. They most commonly present as chronic constipation, but pelvic floor problems can also show up as urinary incontinence, bed wetting, or needing to go to the bathroom frequently. A physical therapist can help with education for the child and their family, exercise, and sometimes even the use of biofeedback to help the child learn to better control their pelvic floor muscles.
Sometimes kids and even babies need some help with movement. From now on, when you think of your physical therapist, don't leave kids out of the picture!