What Is Outpatient Physical Therapy?

Brandon May
Brandon May
Hand exercisers for physical therapy.
Hand exercisers for physical therapy.

Outpatient physical therapy is often used for patients recovering from a physical accident or injury without resorting to traditional therapy in a hospital setting. With outpatient therapy, physical therapists and educators can work with a patient in the comfort of their own home, using exercise equipment and the patient's own body weight for resistance. It isn't uncommon for a patient to travel to a therapist's office to work the muscles and improve flexibility, as this is still considered an outpatient setting. Sometimes outpatient physical therapy includes doing simple exercises at home without a physical guide, using simple therapy exercise videos and light exercise equipment.

Elderly patients may work on an outpatient program with a physical therapist.
Elderly patients may work on an outpatient program with a physical therapist.

With any accident resulting in the loss of mobility or function in a part of the body, patients are encouraged to enter a physical therapy treatment facility or program. If the loss of function is severe and causes pain, it is often recommended that the patient enter the facility as a residential case. For less severe cases, or for individuals who show improvement and signs of recovery, outpatient physical therapy can be prescribed. This results in a patient still receiving physical therapy, such as stretching and mobility exercises, at home or in an office-type setting.

An outpatient may travel to the office of a physical therapist to perform exercises.
An outpatient may travel to the office of a physical therapist to perform exercises.

Often, an outpatient therapy setting includes performing certain exercises at home, usually under the care or guide of a visiting physical therapist. Many of these exercises include walking, stretching and abdominal movements, which if performed at home are said to re-assimilate a patient to everyday movements. An outpatient can also travel to the office of a physical therapist to perform these exercises and help in the healing process. This is still considered outpatient therapy, since it isn't being performed in a hospital or physical therapy residential setting.

Many patients obtain outpatient physical therapy services after they receive inpatient services in a hospital.
Many patients obtain outpatient physical therapy services after they receive inpatient services in a hospital.

Many times with outpatient physical therapy, a therapist may give a patient detailed instructions on exercises and movements that can be done at home. These exercises are performed very slowly over a specified period of time, and include yoga, light weightlifting and various other stretching exercises. Patients may receive exercise videos catered to different physical ailments that are usually to be performed at a slow to medium pace. It is said that this type of outpatient physical therapy can help speed up the healing process, if done safely, by reintroducing a feeling of self-confidence and independence.

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    • Hand exercisers for physical therapy.
      Hand exercisers for physical therapy.
    • Elderly patients may work on an outpatient program with a physical therapist.
      Elderly patients may work on an outpatient program with a physical therapist.
    • An outpatient may travel to the office of a physical therapist to perform exercises.
      An outpatient may travel to the office of a physical therapist to perform exercises.
    • Many patients obtain outpatient physical therapy services after they receive inpatient services in a hospital.
      Many patients obtain outpatient physical therapy services after they receive inpatient services in a hospital.
    • Patients can find outpatient physical therapy clinics in a variety of locations.
      Patients can find outpatient physical therapy clinics in a variety of locations.
    • A physical therapist at an outpatient clinic devises therapeutic rehabilitation and exercises that are tailored to the specific needs of each individual.
      A physical therapist at an outpatient clinic devises therapeutic rehabilitation and exercises that are tailored to the specific needs of each individual.
    • An injured athlete may undergo outpatient physical therapy.
      An injured athlete may undergo outpatient physical therapy.