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Physical Therapy

About Physical Therapy:

What is the physical therapy?
Physical therapy often abbreviated “PT”, is the combination of art and science that deal with physical care and rehabilitation. The World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT) defines physical therapy as “providing services to individuals and populations to develop, maintain and restore maximum movement and functional ability throughout the lifespan. This includes providing services in circumstances where movement and function are threatened by aging, injury, disease or environmental factors. Functional movement is central to what it means to be healthy.”1

According to WCPT, Physical therapy is focused on identifying and maximizing quality of life by providing promotion, prevention, treatment/intervention, habilitation and rehabilitation. It has multidirectional effects physically, psychologically, emotionally, and socially well being. It needs interaction between physical therapist, patients/clients, other health professionals, families, care givers, and communities to draw the optimum goals. It is performed by a physical therapist (PT), and sometimes services are provided by a physical therapy assistant (PTA) acting under their direction.1
Physical therapists practice in many settings, such as outpatient clinics, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, skilled nursing facilities, extended care facilities, private homes, education and research centers, schools, hospices, industrial workplaces or other occupational environments, fitness centers and sports training facilities. They also practice in non-patient care roles such as health policy, health insurance, health care administration and as health care executives. Moreover, Physical therapists are involved in the medical-legal field serving as experts, performing peer review and independent medical examinations.2

Some of the Conditions Treated by Physical Therapists3

  • Arthritis
  • Balance disorders
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Fractures
  • Headaches
  • Lymphedema
  • Pelvic Pain
  • Stroke
  • Back Pain
  • Burns
  • Developmental Delays
  • Dislocations
  • Hand Injuries
  • Incontinence
  • Osteoporosis
  • Sports Injuries
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

How to visit a physical therapist?

Most of the states now have direct access which means that patients are able to refer themselves to a physical therapist without having a referral from health professions. Now, 46 states plus DC are providing the direct access to physical therapy. With direct access to physical therapy, the Physical Therapists take an individual's history and do physical examination to arrive at a diagnosis and establish a management plan. In some cases, incorporate the results of laboratory and imaging studies. Physical therapy management includes prescription of assistive device, specific exercises, manual therapy, education and other interventions.4,5


  1. 1. World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT).
  2. 2. Wikipedia
  3. 3. American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
  4. 4. World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT)
  5. 5. American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)

Physical Therapy Programs:

What is the entry level program in physical therapy?1,2
Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) is the entry level program in physical therapy. In 2002, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) was no longer accredits baccalaureate programs. The Bachelor degree is no longer offered in the USA and changed to Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). The professional (entry-level) DPT degree is the current degree conferred physical therapist professional programs upon successful completion of a three-year post-baccalaureate degree program that prepares the graduate to enter the practice of physical therapy. Admission requirements for the program include:

  • Completion of an undergraduate degree or complete set of prerequisite coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, statistics, psychology, and human anatomy and physiology
  • completion of a standardized graduate examination (eg, GRE),
  • letters of financial grantee
  • personal goals statement,
  • Passing the national licensure examination and meeting the requirements of the state(s) in which the physical therapist practices.

The physical therapy curriculum consists of:

  • Foundational sciences (ie, anatomy, cellular histology, neuroscience, kinesiology, physiology, exercise physiology, pathology, pharmacology, radiology/imaging, medical screening)
  • Behavioral sciences (communication, social and psychologic factors, ethics and values, law, business and management sciences, clinical reasoning, evidence-based practice)
  • Clinical sciences (cardiovascular/pulmonary, endocrine and metabolic, gastrointestinal and genitourinary, integumentary, musculoskeletal, neuromuscular)
  • Physical therapist practice (patient/client management model, prevention, wellness, and health promotion, practice management, management of care delivery, social responsibility and advocacy, and core values).

In addition, learning under the supervision of licensed physical therapists, engage in full-time clinical practice by managing patients/clients with a variety of conditions to master physical therapy knowledge and skills.

History of Doctor of Physical Therapy DPT:1

  • 1992 – First post-professional “transition” DPT program at USC
  • 1993 – First entry-level DPT program (first graduates in 7/96) at Creighton University.
  • 1998- Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) published new accreditation standards requiring PT education to culminate in the awarding of a post- baccalaureate degree.
  • 2000 – House of Delegates (HOD) endorsed Vision 2020; specific reference to “doctors of physical therapy” reflecting support for the clinical doctorate as the preferred professional degree in 2020.
  • 2002 - Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) no longer accredits baccalaureate programs.
  • Effective December 31, 2015, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) will no longer accredit Master's professional programs.

The DPT degree is a clinical degree, also termed a professional degree, whereas other doctoral degrees, like Doctor of philosophy (PhD), Doctor of Science (DSc) and Doctor of Education (EdD) are academic degrees not limited to any one discipline.
There are 4 current main discipline programs:

  1. Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). (Entry level)
  2. Transitional or post-professional Doctor of physical Therapy (DPT). This is a Transitional degree and it is for those who are already have a bachelor or a master of physical therapy and want to earn a DPT degree.
  3. Master degree
  4. Academic doctoral degree such as Doctor of philosophy (PhD), Doctor of Science (DSc) and Doctor of Education (EdD)

Definition of the academic doctoral degrees:

  1. Doctor of philosophy (PhD). Click here.
  2. Doctor of Science (DSc). Click here.


  1. 1. American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
  2. 2. Wikipedia

How to choice a physical therapy program?
American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) does not rank programs. Physical therapy educational programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) which assures quality in physical therapy education. The accredit program is required for eligibility licensure examination.
According to APTA, the decision to choice a program that you want to attend is based on different factors:

  • Geographic location and size of the institution and program
  • Cost
  • Class size; faculty to student ratio
  • Design and length of curriculum
  • Licensure pass rates
  • Employability
  • Faculty composition, content expertise, and cohesiveness (years working together)
  • Degree awarded

Physical Therapist Education Programs (entry level DPT) Click here
Post professional Graduate Programs Click here

The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties2,3
Physical therapists can maintain their knowledge and stay current in their area of expertise through 18 special-interest sections offered by the APTA. In addition, it connects them with others sharing their specific interests. These sections include Acute Care, Aquatic Physical Therapy, Cardiovascular and Pulmonary, Clinical Electrophysiology and Wound Management, Education, Federal Physical Therapy, Geriatrics, Hand Rehabilitation, Health Policy and Administration, Home Health, Neurology, Oncology, Orthopaedic, Pediatrics, Private Practice, Research, Sports Physical Therapy, and Women's Health. Of these 18 sections, 8 of them offer specializations guided by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS). Those specializations are board-certified currently which include the following areas.

  • Cardiovascular and Pulmonary
  • Clinical Electrophysiology
  • Geriatrics
  • Neurology
  • Orthopedics
  • Pediatrics
  • Sports
  • Women's Health


  1. 1.American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
  2. 2. American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
  3. 3. American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)

If you need assistance, please contact
Abdulrahman Alsubiheen PT, MS