What Is Acute Care Physical Therapy?

Health & Medical Blog

Physical therapists provide rehabilitation services to patients in all types of settings. They might work in the hospital, a specialty clinic, the person's home, or in a senior living community. Physical therapists that work primarily in hospitals, such as Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital, are known as acute care physical therapists. This area of physical therapy is provided to patients who have had major surgery, a traumatic injury, or a debilitating disease. It helps the patient improve their mobility after their surgery or disease, and is often a more intensive type of physical therapy program than other varieties of therapy.

Functional Mobility

The main purpose of acute physical therapy is to get you moving around and on your way to being more mobile, while you are still in the hospital. It will be an important part of your recovery process after a traumatic event or illness, such as if you were in a bad car accident, or if you had surgery for colon cancer and have been bedridden during the first part of your recovery. Many doctors refuse to release patents until they show that they can walk a certain length of the hallway outside their room. Here are the main types of functional mobility methods that acute physical therapists help you with:

Mobility in Your Bed

The first type of mobility you will need to become accustomed to starts while you are still in your hospital bed. If you have been unable to move around on your own much, your physical therapist starts here. You will start learning how to sit up and lay back on your own, and how to roll from one side to the other without someone assisting you. You might find that scooting up or down is difficult as a major surgery, and the acute physical therapist will help you with that. It may seem simple, but these basic movements can be difficult after certain types of surgeries or injuries.

Not only does the therapist help you with these movements, but they can teach them to your caregiver and other family members that visit you in the hospital often. Additionally, you will be shown exercises to do every day on your own.

Transferring Out of Your Bed

The next step to acute physical therapy is helping you transfer from your bed to other places. The physical therapist will start slow, just getting you from your bed to a chair next to it, or a commode next to your bed so you can relieve your bladder on your own. Once you are accustomed to these transfers, you will eventually learn to go all the way to the bathroom or another sitting area in your hospital room. Don't rush, but let your physical therapist show you how to stand, sit and move, in order to begin gaining your strength back.

Learning to Walk

The final step of acute physical therapy is when you learn to walk, also called ambulation. You will start slow, just like with transfers, walking through your hospital room first, then down the hall. You may only be able to make it a few steps into the hallway, before you need to turn around and go back. It is important not to push yourself to exhaustion, but to try a little more during every session. You will be able to use an assistive device in the beginning, such as a walker, but eventually you need to be supporting your own weight as you walk.


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