What Types of Physical Therapy Specialties Are There?
Physical therapy is a growing profession aimed at treating all different types of individuals with a variety of health-related conditions. Furthermore, physical therapists promote the ability to move, reduce pain, and improve balance and flexibility while enhancing 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/endurance training, neuromuscular re-education, electrical muscle stimulation, mobilization exercises, and stretching.
People who suffer from any heart or lung related ailments should look for a Cardiopulmonary Certified Specialist (CCS). Ailments include: heart attacks, recovery from heart surgeries, pulmonary fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
PT’s 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, such as the brain or spinal cord, can affect motor and sensory function. So, 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, and 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 PT 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 includes hands on internal manual skills and biofeedback. Additionally, some conditions that women’s health PT’s treat are urinary incontinence, pelvic pain, prenatal and postpartum pain, breast and gynecological cancer care and lymphedema. It is important to seek out a specialist in this area to help women recover from uncomfortable situations.
Competitive athletes should seek out PTs who are Sport 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.
Besides the above listed physical therapy specialties, there are also many smaller subsections. S, 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.
You can use BetterPT or the BetterPT booking app to review each clinic and their reviews before booking a session. Keep in mind, too, that it’s now easier than ever to book and appointment and get the treatment you need thanks to direct access. With direct access, you do not need a referral to book with a physical therapist and receive recommendations for your recovery and treatment plan.
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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.