Who Are Physical Therapists?
Physical Therapists (PTs) are highly educated health care professionals. They can help patients reduce pain and improve mobility and function, in many cases without expensive imaging, medical interventions, and surgery, often reducing the need for long-term prescription medications and their side effects.
In 2018, there were 249,079 board certified physical therapists in the U.S. They engage in evidence-based practice in a variety of settings, including, but not limited to hospitals, nursing homes, private clinics, the Armed Forces, public schools, professional sports teams, patients’ homes, universities, and research institutions.
National accreditation standards now require physical therapist candidates to earn a clinical doctoral degree in physical therapy (DPT), requiring 7-8 total years of college coursework, before sitting for the state board exam.
In 1985, the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties began administering post-graduate board testing and certification to those with several years of experience within a specific physical therapy specialty. These PT board certified specialists now include:
- Orthopaedic Certified Specialist
- Neurologic Certified Specialist
- Sports Certified Specialist
- Pediatric Certified Specialist
- Women’s Health Certified Specialist
- Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Certified Specialist
- Clinical Electrophysiology Certified Specialist
- Geriatric Certified Specialist
In the year 2000, the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) House of Delegates passed Vision 2020, a lofty vision for the future of the physical therapy profession:
“APTA Vision Sentence for Physical Therapy 2020: By 2020, physical therapy will be provided by physical therapists who are doctors of physical therapy, recognized by consumers and other health care professionals as the practitioners of choice to whom consumers have direct access for the diagnosis of, interventions for, and prevention of impairments, activity limitations, participation restrictions, and environmental barriers related to movement, function, and health. “
Your First Visit
A physical therapist patient examination is similar to that performed by other health care practitioners in the area of physical medicine, but perhaps more detailed and focused on movement dysfunction and pain.
An examination always includes a patient history, screening for serious medical disorders, a detailed physical examination with numerous objective tests and measures, a physical therapy diagnosis, and a treatment plan in which specific goals and expected outcomes of care are discussed with the patient.
Professional instruction in exercises and therapy runs between $20 and $60 per session, with therapies priced about the same. Typically providers will treat 2-3 timer per week for several weeks depending on response.
If no improvement is noted after 6-12 visits, a different treatment approach should be tried. Insurance may cover most of these costs.