Picking a Good Physical Therapist? Check out Their Name
It is hard to decide who you should see when you need a physical therapist.
Most people may take the route of convenience. This means choosing a practice meeting one or more of the following criteria.
- Close to their home
- With an available time for PT appointments
- One that’s most publicized
- A clinic that helps you reach your fitness goals in a very specific way
- A clinic or facility that has great reviews
- One that offers direct access appointments
This is because physical therapists are made equal, correct?
No, not correct.
Although all physical therapists do attend 4 years of college and then continue on to graduate school to receive their physical therapy degree, there is a lot more training and learning after school to distinguish physical therapists from each other.
How can you tell that your physical therapist has continued to learn and educate themselves? Just look at their name. Some physical therapists have the standard PT initials/credentials after their name. This definines them as a licensed physical therapist. However, it is becoming more common to see multiple initials after their name. This distinguishes them as practicing PT specialties in a certain field of physical therapy with additional education and training.
The initials/credentials after a physical therapists’ name denote that they have spent extra time outside of school obtaining another degree/certification. Just like physicians, there are many types of PT specialties fields to work in. Yes, you receive training in each field while in school. But in order to specialize and master a specific field of physical therapy, you’ll take continuing education courses. Some therapists even complete a residency to earn more letters after their name.
There are many letters that can be earned. Here is a list of some common letters and their meanings to look out for when choosing your physical therapy specialist:
Common Titles for Physical Therapy Professionals
- Doctorate of Physical Therapy, DPT: A physical therapist who has completed a clinical doctorate degree program. This program is 1 year longer than the standard Masters (MPT) degree. The doctorate degree program includes additional education to prepare physical therapists to diagnosing patients as the first point of contact.
- Physical Therapist Assistant, PTA: A licensed physical therapist assistant who is permitted to provide physical therapy services under the direction of a physical therapist. They can carry out a physical therapists’ plan of care and provide treatment. They cannot diagnose or perform physical therapy evaluations.
- Orthopedic Certified Specialist, OCS: A physical therapist with advanced clinical skills and knowledge in the area of orthopedics. This therapist treats all of your orthopedic needs.
- Sports Certified Specialists, SCS: These initials denote a physical therapist with advanced clinical skills and knowledge in the area of sports. This type of physical therapy professional has spent time on the field with sporting athletes and can treat the demands of high-level sports. This is the type of physical therapist that Olympic athletes visit.
PT Specialties for Physical Therapists
- Pediatric Certified Specialists, PCS: A physical therapist with advanced clinical skills and knowledge in the area of pediatrics. This type of therapist is where you’ll go for the treatment of issues and injuries sustained by children and babies.
- Women’s Health Certified Specialist, WCS: A therapist with this specialty has advanced clinical skills and knowledge in the area of women’s health. Seek out this therapist for all of your prenatal, postnatal, and pelvic floor needs. The title includes the words “women’s health”, but this specialized physical therapist treats male or female patients for any issue related to the pelvic floor.
- Neurologic Certified Specialist, NCS: A physical therapist with advanced clinical skills and knowledge in the area of neurology. This is the therapist that treats complicated cases pertaining to neuromuscular diseases including Total Brain Injuries, Strokes, Parkinson’s disease, etc.
- Geriatric Certified Specialists, GCS: A physical therapist with advanced clinical skills and knowledge in the area of geriatrics. This is the therapist to seek out for your grandmother, your great grandfather, or any person who requires special needs pertaining to their elderly age.
- Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Certified Specialist, CCS: A physical therapist with advanced clinical skills and knowledge in the area of cardiopulmonary issues. This is the therapist that treats medical-related issues regarding the heart and lungs. This helps with recovery back to full function
- Clinical Electrophysiologic Certified Specialist, ECS: A physical therapist with advanced clinical skills and knowledge in the area of electrophysiological medicine. This is the therapist to see for injuries that require the use of high tech machines and testing. This includes transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) machines and electromyogram and nerve conduction velocity testing (EMG/NCV).
Workplace PT Specialty Titles
- Functional Movement Systems Specialists, FMS: A physical therapist who has learned and can administer the FMS test. The FMS is a screening tool used to identify limitations or asymmetries in seven fundamental movement patterns. These are the therapists trained to recognize faulty movement patterns and provide exercise prescriptions to correct those movement patterns.
- Certified Hand Therapist, CHT: A physical therapist who has advanced clinical skills and knowledge with hands and upper extremity injuries. They are the therapists who know every tiny bone, ligament, and nerve within the hand and upper extremity.
- Functional Capacity Evaluator, FCE: A physical therapist who has learned and can administer a functional capacity evaluation. This test determine an injured employee’s physical capabilities for return to work. Seek out these tjherapists when deciding how much and what type of work can be tolerated after an injury.
- Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist, COMT: A physical therapist with advanced clinical skills and knowledge in the area of manual treatment techniques. They are the therapists that are more likely to dive into a back and neck problem with their hands-on manual skills, advanced mobilization of soft tissues, and bones.
What to Expect at a Physical Therapy Appointment
Your first physical therapy appointment may be scary. Luckily, the first one can (and should) put you at ease. Read this blog about what to expect at your first physical therapy appointment. The more you know, the better prepared you are to begin treatment. October is National Physical Therapy Month, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only month you can attend sessions. Don’t only consider your health during this month. Well-being is important year-round, and a good physical therapist goes a long way.
There are many more letters/certifications to learn about here that continue to distinguish physical therapist from physical therapist and help you find the right therapist for you. You can search and browse physical therapists at different physical therapy clinics near you via the BetterPT clinic location tool or by downloading the BetterPT mobile app. The use of telehealth through the BetterTelehealth network is also an option, too.
Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel. With the “right” physical therapist for you and direct access to them, you can get there!
Book an appointment today to start feeling better about yourself – and to get stronger!