What is pediatric physical therapy?

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Physical therapy is not just for athletes and adults in recovery. Sometimes, children need physical therapy, too

Pediatric physical therapists treat children from birth to age 18. They see kids for a variety of reasons, including bone/muscle issues, sports-related injuries, genetic disorders, or neurological conditions.

Therapists engage children in a playful way to improve their range of motion, strength, flexibility, and movement patterns. They use fun, age-appropriate games and activities to keep kids motivated and cooperative. They collaborate with family members to enhance the child’s development and create an individualized home program.

Pediatric physical therapy uses behavioral training to help children with a variety of issues, including:

  • Delays in development
  • Genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome
  • Muscle weakness or imbalance
  • Poor coordination
  • Nerve/muscle conditions, including cerebral palsy and spina bifida
  • Toricollis (problem involving the muscles of the neck)
  • Toe walking (walking on the toes or balls of the feet)
  • Recovery from sports- and non-sports-related injuries

A child may need physical therapy for a number of reasons, which may include:

  • Not meeting developmental milestones during the first year of life (rolling, sitting, standing, walking)
  • Having a strong preference for turning their head to one side or using one side of their body
  • Walking on the balls of their feet or in an awkward manner
  • Difficulty keeping up with their peers during play
  • Not being able to perform the same gross motor tasks (hopping, jumping, skipping) as their peers
  • Frequently tripping and falling when walking
  • Complaining of pain when performing gross motor tasks

A primary care provider or specialist can refer a child to physical therapy. Horizon Health has two doctors of physical therapy who specialize in pediatric physical therapy: Lorie Edwards, PT, DPT, and Danielle Colvin, PT, DPT, OCS.