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Role of Physical Therapists in Health Promotion

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6 min read


Physical therapists play a unique role in society's health promotion. This article explains how physical therapists help to improve overall health.

Medically reviewed by

Mohammed Wajid

Published At September 5, 2022
Reviewed AtJanuary 3, 2023

What Is Health?

Health is more than just the absence of disease or weakness; it is a state of total physical, mental, and social well-being. It is a significant resource that enables people to live productive lives on an individual, social, and economic level by allowing them to work, learn, and participate fully in family and community life. Personal, economic, social, and environmental factors all have an impact on one's health. Some variables are within our control, while others are beyond our power. Numerous things have been blamed for diseases in medical history, from microorganisms to poverty, lack of education, and dire living conditions.

What Is Health Promotion?

Health promotion can be targeted toward high-risk health issues affecting a wide population, with numerous interventions being promoted. Several ways can be used to improve health: The issue-based approach works well with settings-based designs to address priority health problems by considering the complex health determinants that operate in people's homes and workplaces, such as behaviors, cultural beliefs, and practices, and so on. It can be used in schools, businesses, marketplaces, and residential areas to help promote the integration of health promotion actions into social activities while taking into account current local realities. The conceptual approach takes into account the needs of the whole population and chooses specific interventions that will be most effective at meeting them.

What Is the Role of Physiotherapists in Health Promotion and Wellness?

Despite their expertise in rehabilitation and habilitation, physical therapists play an important role in promoting fitness and wellness by encouraging active living, providing early disease diagnosis, prescribing targeted activity interventions to improve fitness and participation, and assisting individuals in overcoming personal and environmental barriers to leading an active lifestyle.

Physiotherapists use nonpharmacological and noninvasive interventions like a client and patient education, as well as their educational background in pathology, pathophysiology, and expert knowledge, skills, and behaviors in exercise, fitness, and wellness, to deliver health-focused care strategies that are effective in preventing, reversing, and managing many chronic non-communicable diseases. The length of time spent in overextended episodes of care, as well as intimate and trusting relationships with patients, creates an ideal environment for promoting wellness and providing knowledge.

Education, research, advocacy, direct intervention, and collaborative consultation are all possible roles for physiotherapists. These positions are critical to the profession's mission of altering society by improving the human experience by optimizing movement.

The following are five key physical behaviors that physiotherapists address:

  • Physical activity.

  • Weight control and nutrition.

  • Quitting smoking.

  • Controlling your sleep and maintaining a proper sleep cycle.

  • Stress reduction.

By acting as a link between health and health care delivery, physiotherapists, as members of the health promoter community, play an important role in health promotion, wellbeing, fitness, illness and disability prevention, and management of people and populations. This means that physiotherapists use this opportunity and knowledge to help people and groups improve their overall health and avoid health problems. Physiotherapists can play a variety of roles, including education, direct intervention, research, and advocacy. This is in line with the profession's goal of empowering people to take control of their health.

Physiotherapists also personalize health advice for all the individuals in the community. For example, physiotherapists consider and account for social determinants of health when offering clinical and community services. Physiotherapists also develop specialized ways to help people change their health behaviors and ensure that clinical and community therapies are integrated, accessible, and mutually reinforcing.

How Can Health Promotion and Wellness Be Integrated Into Physical Therapy Practice?

Physical therapists should be capable of detecting and training their patients on basic health promotion principles such as personal cleanliness, skincare, dental hygiene, sanitation, tobacco avoidance or cessation, immunizations, illness prevention, diet, rest, exercise, and weight control.

To teach patients, physical therapists must be knowledgeable about injury and disease epidemiology, risk factors, and variables influencing safety and injury prevention. Physical therapists can help patients quit smoking, develop healthy eating habits, maintain a healthy weight, engage in regular physical activity, get enough sleep, and reduce stress. Health and wellness are intertwined. A person might be healthy but unwell if, for example, they exercise obsessively or neglect their relationships, spiritual hobbies, and intellectual pursuits. It is also possible to be healthy while also being sick since many individuals with chronic sickness and disability lead productive, meaningful lives. The important takeaway message for physical therapists and other health care providers is that health and wellness are not limited to physical health, and efforts that focus solely on physical health, such as physical activity, weight management, and nutrition, while necessary, overlook the impact of the other dimensions on overall well-being. Physiotherapists must be aware of the impact of emotions, social support, spirituality, and other aspects on patients' overall health and wellness in order to build more tailored and suitable treatment regimens. Understanding what motivates the patient or client, what strengths they have in the dimensions of wellness, and what is important to them gives the physical therapist useful information to create a therapy plan.

Patients and customers who are asymptomatic need to understand and recognize wellbeing since they are often not motivated to engage in healthy activities to enhance their health. However, they can be driven to improve their wellness. Understanding and assessing a patient's or client's wellness allows the physical therapist to help them create links between healthy habits and their beliefs or views, which can be a powerful motivator for them to adopt healthy behaviors.

What Are Some of the Obstacles to Health Promotion?

The following are the most common roadblocks:

  • Time.

  • There is a lack of interest or awareness among patients, clients, the general public, and other healthcare providers that physical therapists perform these services.

  • Lack of information or education.

  • Lack of remuneration.

  • Scarcity of resources.

Limited counseling abilities, a lack of self-efficacy, physical therapists' concentration on secondary and tertiary prevention, and the belief that the physical therapy work environment is not conducive to health promotion are all impediments.

What Are the Key Steps Physical Therapists Perform in Health Promotion, Prevention, and Wellness?

The following are the key steps:

  • In a plan of care, including information on body functions and structures, activities, and involvement, as well as relevant personal and environmental elements, such as social determinants of health, such as economic stability, education, social and community context, health and health care, neighborhood, and built environment.

  • People and groups should use scientific ideas about movement, function, and exercise progression to get them to be more active and improve their health.

  • As needed, talk about health and wellness, exercise, and prevention with each patient or client.

  • Integrate and understand parts of medical, biopsychosocial, and health promotion models to keep track of their health over time and see how it changes.

  • Design and develop integrated clinical and community screening programs to manage and prevent disease and disability as part of a community-based integrated team focused on healthy lifestyles and refer as needed.

  • Use the best evidence to choose and prescribe exercise for people, as well as organize physical activity and injury prevention programs for people and their communities.

  • To promote healthy lives in individuals and communities, use skills in behavior change.

  • Adapt tasks and the environment as part of a community-based integrated team to promote healthy habits and improve health outcomes for individuals and populations of all ages, including those with complex health and functional needs.

  • Take steps to live a healthy life, such as not using active modes of transportation and following national guidelines for physical activity and exercise participation.

  • Individual exercise prescriptions should be based on the best available evidence in selecting, prescribing, and applying intervention and monitoring measures to assist patients in preventing primary, secondary, and tertiary conditions or optimizing functional mobility.

  • Plan programs to educate populations to help them avoid primary, secondary, and tertiary problems or regain functional mobility using the best evidence.

  • Physical therapists are known for providing nonsurgical and nonpharmacological therapies.

  • They predict and interpret health outcomes and functional needs based on where people live, work, learn, and play.

  • People and groups should adapt health recommendations for people and groups, from clinical settings to their homes and communities, based on their experience with exercise and physical activity.

  • As part of an interprofessional team, health practitioners, wellness and fitness providers, community health workers, public health providers, and other professionals help people and groups of people reduce their risk of disease and improve their health and quality of life.

  • They communicate and work with relevant health specialists to assist individuals and populations in receiving appropriate health care.

  • Scientists, educators, legislators, and other policymakers can help people who want to be more active get more exercise and stay healthy.

  • At all levels of education and study, from preschool through higher education, they advocate for physical education, physical fitness, and wellness training.

  • Advocate for community design that encourages people and populations of all ages and abilities to engage in safe physical activity and use active modes of transportation.

  • Advocate for solutions that address the socioeconomic determinants of health disparities and impediments.


Physical therapists assist in preventing, treating, and managing chronic lifestyle-related diseases. The increased awareness would benefit the general public, physicians in better tailoring and targeting health education initiatives, and researchers conducting various studies.

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Mohammed Wajid
Mohammed Wajid



physical therapy
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