If you have ever thrown out your back helping a friend move or torn your meniscus playing basketball at the gym, chances are you attended physical therapy somewhere on your road to recovery. So when your Pediatrician recommends that your 7 month old attend physical therapy to help with head control, you may ask yourself, “What is physical therapy for infants?”
Physical Therapy for Infants:
First off, your right to assume that physical therapy for infants is going to look at lot different than the physical therapy you received after knee surgery. While all physical therapist must attend accredited Masters and Doctorate of Physical Therapy programs, the areas you can specialize vary greatly, from an outpatient center where people go after surgeries and sport injuries, to a burn unit where physical therapist are helping patients maximize range of motion. A physical therapist who specializes in pediatrics has learned how to achieve similar strength gains, increase range of motion, and functional improvements, with children.
One of the main differences between physical therapy for infants and physical therapy for adults is the idea of parent education. In order to maximize gains, exercises must done multiple times every day. Since it is not feasible for a physical therapist to perform all of these repetitions, they must act as educators to the caregivers, teaching handling techniques and updating exercises as the child progresses. Much of each physical therapy session is spent on updating and educating this home exercise plan.
Now we come to the next major difference between infant and adult physical therapy: exercises. How can an infant exercise?? Are there baby weights they should be using?? Most of the exercises an infant does are going to be greatly different than the ones you or I would perform. Because they are growing everyday, most functional movements are in fact a form of exercise for them, allowing their muscles to get stronger and building the foundation for all gross motor skills. Each home exercise is tailored to the child’s specific needs and growth over time. So depending on what your child was referred to physical therapy for their home exercises could include play time while laying on a specific side, learning to transition into or out of sitting, or stretches while having them turn to the left.
While the differences between infant physical therapy and adult physical therapy are many, the foundations remain the same. The physical therapist is looking for physical deficits in strength, range of motion, balance, etc, that are negatively impacting a person’s performance in a specific activity, whether that be jumping and walking up stairs, or crawling and holding their head up.
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!