Physical Therapy at Birth

Physical Therapy at Birth

Physical therapy can help individuals of all ages, starting from birth. In fact, the term ‘neonatal physical therapy’ is an advanced practice area in pediatric physical therapy. The physical therapist in neonatal units works in close collaboration with other members of the healthcare team to monitor the baby’s breathing, swelling and overall movement patterns. Physical therapists have played a significant role in the care of infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), and help to increase survival rates in babies born preterm.

When working with babies in the NICU, the therapist must identify and address the unique, and changing needs of these precious infants. Neonatal physical therapists need advanced training to meet safely and efficiently the neurodevelopmental and musculoskeletal needs of infants, in addition to the educational and emotional needs of their parents.

The ultimate goal for the neonatal physical therapist is to provide treatments that will improve successful long-term outcomes for preterm infants.

The physical therapist is a crucial part of the healthcare team, working closely with the physicians on one side and the parents on the other. The therapist spends a lot more time with the infant and the parents than other members of the medical team and monitors the child’s condition on a daily, sometimes hourly basis.

The therapist supervises several different systems and tries to identify neurological diseases and cardiovascular problems as quickly as possible. In additional, the state of bones, joints and muscles are monitored very carefully. The first few days and weeks are very crucial for the long-term health of the child.

The emotional and physical state of the infant is under constant supervision. Making sure that the baby demonstrates acceptable levels of movement and alertness is a key objective. Extensive education is provided to the parents. Families are taught about exercises and postures to facilitate, and which to avoid. Parents may be asked to engage in passive range of movement exercises to improve overall function. If infants have some form of chest congestion, percussion therapy, postural drainage and oral suctioning may be part of the treatment regime.