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Kinesiotherapy is the application of scientifically based exercise principles adapted to
enhance the strength, endurance, and mobility of individuals with functional limitations
of those requiring extended physical conditioning.
Kinesiology, derived from the Greek words kinesis (movement) and kinein (to move),
also known as human kinetics, is the science of human movement. It is a discipline that
focuses on Physical Activity. A kinesiological approach applies scientific based medical
principles towards the analysis, preservation and enhancement of human movement in
all settings and populations. Kinesiologists work in research, the fitness industry,
clinically, and in industrial environments. Studies on human motion may be supported
by computer vision, using stereo camera systems for pose recognition and motion
modeling. It is not to be confused with applied kinesiology, a controversial alternative
medicine technique related to chiropractic techniques.
The definition of physical activity is a highly debated topic. Not all individuals who are
associated within the field of kinesiology agree on the technical definition of physical
activity. In North America, kinesiologists are conferred a Bachelor of Science degree
(or higher) in Kinesiology or Human Kinetics, while in Australia or New Zealand, they
are often conferred an Applied Science (Human Movement) degree (or higher).
Kinesiologists assess human movement, performance, and function by applying the
sciences of biomechanics, anatomy, physiology, and motor learning. Kinesiologists are
involved in the rehabilitation, prevention, and management of disorders to maintain,
rehabilitate, or enhance movement, function or performance in the areas of sport,
recreation, work, and exercise. Kinesiologists also provide consulting services, conduct
research, and develop policies related to rehabilitation, human motor performance,
ergonomics, and occupational health and safety. The bodily motion utilized from
physical motion sets the rhythm for the organs in the body.
There is a large debate centered on the technical definition of physical activity. These
debates range from whether or not an action is voluntary or involuntary, purposeful in
direction within a specific activity, as well as the difference between movement and
physical activity. One way to think about the relationship between movement and
physical activity is this: Movement is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for
physical activity. If you are performing a physical activity, you are using movement; but
not every movement is a physical activity – e.g., blinking an eye, swallowing, contraction
of diaphragm. One definition of physical activity is as follows: Voluntary movement
intentionally performed in order to achieve a goal in sport, exercise, or any other sphere
of life experience. In relation to this definition of physical activity, one definition of
movement is as follows: Includes any change in the position of your body parts relative
to each other.
Physical therapy (British English: physiotherapy) is a health care profession that
provides treatment to individuals to develop, maintain and restore maximum movement
and function throughout life. This includes providing treatment in circumstances where
movement and function are threatened by aging, injury, disease or environmental
Physical therapy is concerned with identifying and maximizing quality of life and
movement potential within the spheres of promotion, prevention, treatment/intervention,
habilitation and rehabilitation. This encompasses physical, psychological, emotional,
and social well being. It involves the interaction between physical therapist (PT),
patients/clients, other health professionals, families, care givers, and communities in a
process where movement potential is assessed and goals are agreed upon, using
knowledge and skills unique to physical therapists. Physical therapy is performed by
either a physical therapist (PT) or an assistant (PTA) acting under their direction.
PTs use an individual's history and physical examination to arrive at a diagnosis and
establish a management plan and, when necessary, incorporate the results of
laboratory and imaging studies. Electrodiagnostic testing (e.g., electromyograms and
nerve conduction velocity testing) may also be of assistance.
Physical therapy has many specialties including cardiopulmonary, geriatrics, neurologic,
orthopedic and pediatrics, to name some of the more common areas. PTs practice in
many settings, such as outpatient clinics or offices, inpatient rehabilitation facilities,
skilled nursing facilities, extended care facilities, private homes, education and research
centers, schools, hospices, industrial workplaces or other occupational environments,
fitness centers and sports training facilities.
Education qualifications vary greatly by country. The span of education ranges from
some countries having little formal education to others requiring masters or doctoral
Physicians like Hippocrates and later Galenus are believed to have been the first
practitioners of physical therapy, advocating massage, manual therapy techniques and
hydrotherapy to treat people in 460 B.C. After the development of orthopedics in the
eighteenth century, machines like the Gymnasticon were developed to treat gout and
similar diseases by systematic exercise of the joints, similar to later developments in
The earliest documented origins of actual physical therapy as a professional group date
back to Per Henrik Ling “Father of Swedish Gymnastics” who founded the Royal Central
Institute of Gymnastics (RCIG) in 1813 for massage, manipulation, and exercise. The
Swedish word for physical therapist is “sjukgymnast” = “sick-gymnast.” In 1887, PTs
were given official registration by Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare.
Other countries soon followed. In 1894 four nurses in Great Britain formed the
Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. The School of Physiotherapy at the University of
Otago in New Zealand in 1913, and the United States' 1914 Reed College in Portland,
Oregon, which graduated "reconstruction aides."
Research catalyzed the physical therapy movement. The first physical therapy research
was published in the United States in March 1921 in The PT Review. In the same year,
Mary McMillan organized the Physical Therapy Association (now called the American
Physical Therapy Association (APTA). In 1924, the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation
promoted the field by touting physical therapy as a treatment for polio.
Treatment through the 1940s primarily consisted of exercise, massage, and traction.
Manipulative procedures to the spine and extremity joints began to be practiced,
especially in the British Commonwealth countries, in the early 1950s. Later that decade,
physical therapists started to move beyond hospital based practice, to outpatient
orthopedic clinics, public schools, college/universities, geriatric settings (skilled nursing
facilities), rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and medical centers.
Specialization for physical therapy in the U.S. occurred in 1974, with the Orthopaedic
Section of the APTA being formed for those physical therapists specializing in
orthopaedics. In the same year, the International Federation of Orthopaedic
Manipulative Therapy was formed,] which has played an important role in advancing
manual therapy worldwide ever since.
World Confederation of Physical Therapy (WCPT) recognises there is considerable
diversity in the social, economic, cultural, and political environments in which physical
therapist education is conducted throughout the world. WCPT recommends physical
therapist entry-level educational programs be based on university or university-level
studies, of a minimum of four years, independently validated and accredited as being at
a standard that accords graduates full statutory and professional recognition. WCPT
acknowledges there is innovation and variation in program delivery and in entry-level
qualifications, including first university degrees (Bachelors/Baccalaureate/Licensed or
equivalent), Masters and Doctorate entry qualifications. What is expected is that any
program should deliver a curriculum that will enable physical therapists to attain the
knowledge, skills, and attributes described in these guidelines.
Professional education prepares physical therapists to be autonomous practitioners in
collaboration with other members of the health care team.
Physical therapist entry-level educational programs integrate theory, evidence and
practice along a continuum of learning. This begins with admission to an accredited
physical therapy program and ending with retirement from active practice.
Because the body of knowledge of physical therapy is quite large, some PTs specialize
in a specific clinical area. While there are many different types of physical therapy, the
American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties list seven specialist certifications,
including Sports Physical Therapy and Clinical Electrophysiology. Worldwide the six
most common specialty areas in physical therapy are:
Cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation physical therapists treat a wide variety of
individuals with cardiopulmonary disorders or those who have had cardiac or pulmonary
surgery. Primary goals of this specialty include increasing endurance and functional
independence. Manual therapy is used in this field to assist in clearing lung secretions
experienced with cystic fibrosis. Disorders, including heart attacks, post coronary
bypass surgery, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pulmonary fibrosis,
treatments can benefit from cardiovascular and pulmonary specialized physical
Geriatric physical therapy covers a wide area of issues concerning people as they go
through normal adult aging but is usually focused on the older adult. There are many
conditions that affect many people as they grow older and include but are not limited to
the following: arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, hip and joint
replacement, balance disorders, incontinence, etc.
Geriatric physical therapy helps those affected by such problems in developing a
specialized program to help restore mobility, reduce pain, and increase fitness level.
Neurological physical therapy is a discipline focused on working with individuals who
have a neurological disorder or disease. These include Alzheimer's disease, ALS, brain
injury, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury, and
stroke. Common impairments associated with neurologic conditions include
impairments of vision, balance, ambulation, activities of daily living, movement, speech
and loss of functional independence.
Orthopedic physical therapists diagnose, manage, and treat disorders and injuries of the
musculoskeletal system including rehabilitation after orthopedic surgery. This specialty
of physical therapy is most often found in the out-patient clinical setting. Orthopedic
therapists are trained in the treatment of post-operative orthopedic procedures,
fractures, acute sports injuries, arthritis, sprains, strains, back and neck pain, spinal
conditions and amputations.
Joint and spine mobilization/manipulation, therapeutic exercise, neuromuscular
reeducation, hot/cold packs, and electrical muscle stimulation (e.g., cryotherapy,
iontophoresis, electrotherapy) are modalities often used to expedite recovery in the
orthopedic setting. Additionally, an emerging adjunct to diagnosis and treatment is the
use of sonography for diagnosis and to guide treatments such as muscle retraining.
Those who have suffered injury or disease affecting the muscles, bones, ligaments, or
tendons of the body will benefit from assessment by a physical therapist specialized in
Pediatric physical therapy assists in early detection of health problems and uses a wide
variety of modalities to treat disorders in the pediatric population. These therapists are
specialized in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of infants, children, and
adolescents with a variety of congenital, developmental, neuromuscular, skeletal, or
acquired disorders/diseases. Treatments focus on improving gross and fine motor skills,
balance and coordination, strength and endurance as well as cognitive and sensory
processing/integration. Children with developmental delays, cerebral palsy, spina bifida,
or torticollis, may be treated by pediatric physical therapists.
Integumentary (treatment of conditions involving the skin and related organs). Common
conditions managed include wounds and burns. Physical therapists utilize surgical
instruments, mechanical lavage, dressings and topical agents to debride necrotic tissue
and promote tissue healing. Other commonly used interventions include exercise,
edema control, splinting, and compression garments.
The kinesiotherapist is academically and clinically prepared to provide rehabilitation
exercise and education under the prescription of a licensed physician in an appropriate
setting. Kinesiotherapists are qualified to implement exercise programs designed to
reverse or minimize debilitation and enhance the functional capacity of medically stable
patients in a wellness, sub-acute, or extended care setting. The role of the
kinesiotherapist demands intelligence, judgment, honesty, interpersonal skills, and the
capacity to react to emergencies in a calm and reasoned manner. An attitude of respect
for self and others, adherence to the concepts of privilege and confidentiality in
communicating with patients, and a commitment to the patient's welfare are standard
attributes. At a minimum, a kinesiotherapist is educated in areas of basic exercise
science and clinical applications of rehabilitation exercise. Training is received in
orthopedic, neurological, psychiatric, pediatric, cardiovascular-pulmonary, and geriatric
Kinesiotherapy is the application of scientifically based exercise principles adapted to
enhance the strength, endurance, and mobility of individuals with functional limitations
or those requiring extended physical conditioning.
The kinesiotherapist is a health care professional competent in the administration of
musculoskeletal, neurological, ergonomic, biomechanical, psychosocial, and task-
specific functional tests and measures. The kinesiotherapist determines the appropriate
evaluation tools and interventions necessary to establish, in collaboration with the client,
a goal-specific treatment plan.
The intervention process includes the development and implementation of a treatment
plan, assessment of progress toward goals, modification as necessary to achieve goals
and outcomes, and client education. The foundation of clinician-client rapport is based
on education, instruction, demonstration, and mentoring of therapeutic techniques and
behaviors to restore, maintain, and improve overall functional abilities.
The Scope of Practice for Kinesiotherapy identities the job tasks that registered
kinesiotherapists are qualified to perform. This document reflects the evaluation
procedures and treatment interventions for medically stable individuals who need
extended physical conditioning. The individual kinesiotherapist may obtain additional
training and credentials in areas beyond the scope of practice. The Standards of
Practice for Registered Kinesiotherapists serves as a guideline for practicing registered
kinesiotherapists and provides a basis for assessment of kinesiotherapy practices.
Registered kinesiotherapists are employed in Department of Veterans Affairs Medical
Centers, public and private hospitals, sports medicine facilities, rehabilitation facilities,
learning disability centers, schools, colleges and universities, private practice, and as
The types of treatments carried out by kinesiotherapists focus on but are not limited to:
Adapted fitness and conditioning
Adapted exercise for the home setting
Length. The kinesiotherapy program is 4 to 5 years. The total minimum requirements
are 128 semester hours. Minimum requirements for years 1 and 2 are 59 semester
hours and for years 3 and 4 are 67 semester hours.
Prerequisites. Applicants should have a high school diploma or equivalent and meet
institutional entrance requirements.
Curriculum. The program has a comprehensive academic and clinical curriculum plan
that fulfills or exceeds the minimum requirements for kinesiotherapy accreditation.
The curriculum plan includes an organized and sequential series of integrated learning
experiences designed to achieve or exceed minimum competencies.
All academic and clinical courses are guided by written measurable behavioral
objectives and use case-based, patient-centered, problem-solving activities.
The curriculum plan includes academic learning experiences, which lead to the
attainment of all academic competencies listed in the Minimum Core Competencies of
Students must complete the following content areas: human anatomy, human
physiology, exercise physiology, kinesiology/biomechanics, therapeutic
exercise/adapted physical education, growth and development, motor
learning/control/performance, general psychology, organization and administration,
tests and measurements, research methods or statistics, and first aid and
cardiopulmonary resuscitation, Introduction to Kinesiotherapy, pathophysiology, clinical
neurology, rehabilitation procedures, patient assessment and management, and
therapeutic activities. Students are strongly encouraged to complete the following
academic courses: abnormal psychology or mental health, physiological psychology,
exercise testing and prescription, gerontology, medical ethics, medical terminology,
pharmacology, health/medical/functional outcomes management, health education, and
Kinesiotherapy I and II.
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