What Types of Physical Therapy Specialties Are There?
Physical therapy is a growing profession. It’s aimed at treating all different types of individuals with a variety of health-related conditions. Everyone has different health and fitness goals, but being healthy is usually one of the most important.
Furthermore, physical therapists promote the ability to do the following – and more! Starting physical therapy shouldn’t be a difficult decision. There are many reasons to utilize the services they provide.
Good physical therapists help patients
- Reduce pain
- Improve balance and flexibility
- Enhance the overall quality of life
For any type of injury or diagnosis, there is a physical therapist who can help. Below are 5 main physical therapy specialties.
Physical Therapists who work with orthopedic conditions are called Orthopedic Certified Specialists (OCS). They focus on diagnoses related to the musculoskeletal system. If you have joint pains, muscle aches, tendon issues, torn ligaments, or bone injuries, you need to book a session with an orthopedic PT. Treatment methods include:
- Strength and endurance training
- Neuromuscular re-education
- Electrical muscle stimulation
- Mobilization exercises
People who suffer from any heart or lung-related ailments should look for a Cardiopulmonary Certified Specialist (CCS). Ailments that these physical therapy professionals treat include the following.
- Heart attacks
- Recovery from heart surgeries
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Good physical therapists are extremely useful in dealing with the side effects of having neurological conditions. In this specialty, PT’s are called Neurological Certified Specialists (NCS).
Any injury or impairment to the nervous system like the brain or spinal cord can affect motor and sensory function. These physical therapists help patients who have had strokes, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, vestibular dysfunction, and movement disorders. Their treatment plan assists patients with adapting and restoring sensory deficits and muscle loss so that they can still function with their day-to-day activities.
PT’s who work with infants through early adolescents are called Pediatric Certified Specialists (PCS). In this field, they require a completely different skill set than other PT’s. Instead, they focus on:
- Birth defects
- Developmental delays
- Genetic disorders
- Trauma or injury in the younger population
Sometimes, the child is too young to communicate or understand the pain themselves. In this case, it’s important to find a therapist and schedule a PT appointment with someone that has experience dealing with a similar situation.
Elderly patients also have a very specific set of needs and should seek out a PT who is a Geriatric Certified Specialist (GCS). Some conditions that geriatric PT’s work with are arthritis, cancer, osteoporosis, joint replacement, and balance impairments. With these in mind, one main goal of geriatric PT care is to help patients be as independent and comfortable (pain-free) as possible, while increasing fitness levels.
PTs who work predominantly with woman’s health-related issues are called Women’s Health Certified Specialists (WSC). For this, they provide a discreet and comfortable environment to perform their unique skillsets. These include hands-on internal manual skills and biofeedback. Additionally, some conditions that women’s health PT’s treat are as follows.
- Urinary incontinence
- Pelvic pain
- Prenatal and postpartum pain
- Breast and gynecological cancer care
It is important to seek out a specialist in this area to help women recover from uncomfortable situations. Finding the right physical therapist and physical therapy clinic means doing some research. The better prepared you are when you arrive for your first physical therapy session, the better.
Competitive athletes should seek out PTs who are Sports Certified Specialists (SCS). These PTs have spent many hours on the field and have knowledge regarding sport-specific injuries and returning players to a higher level of function. They are experts in athletic injury management, including acute care, treatment, rehabilitation, and prevention. Both amateur and professional athletes benefit from visiting this type of PT specialist.
Choosing a Good Physical Therapist and a Quality Physical Therapy Clinic
Besides the above-listed physical therapy specialties, there are also many smaller subsections. So, depending on where you choose to get treatment, each clinic or PT may have their own specialties. Thus, it is important to do your research and learn about your clinic or PT before you visit. Don’t only focus on your health and well-being during National Physical Therapy Month. Do it year-round for the best possible results.
You can use BetterPT’s clinic location tool or download the BetterPT app to review each physical therapy clinic near you. These options give you access to clinic information and reviews before booking a session.
Another relatively new option for those seeking out care from individuals focused on PT specialties is telehealth. Virtual medicine has never been easier to use, and the BetterTelehealth network is only one example of this.
Keep in mind, too, that it’s now easier than ever to book an appointment and get the treatment you need thanks to direct access. With direct access, you don’t need a referral to see a physical therapist and receive recommendations for your recovery and treatment plan. Learn more about one patient’s experience with direct access here.
Dr. Marla Ranieri graduated from Stanford University with her bachelor’s degree in Human Biology in 2005 and went on to receive her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2009. She has worked with all types of individuals, including professional athletes as part of the USA Gymnastics Medical Staff. Marla continues to treat patients with evidence-based medicine and the best quality of care.