The Official Physical Therapy Specialties According To The ABPTS

Physical therapy is a very broad field. Students learn about anatomy and physiology, exercise physiology, neuroscience, kinesiology, and other clinical sciences. Because its body of knowledge is relatively large, many physical therapists have chosen to specialize in a particular field. The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) is the governing body with regard to specialization. They take care of the minimum requirements to specialize in a particular field and certify potential candidates. According to the ABPTS, the areas a physical therapist can specialize in are cardiovascular and pulmonary, clinical electrophysiology, geriatrics, neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics, sports, and women’s health.

Cardiovascular and pulmonary specialists treat patients with cardiopulmonary disorders such as heart attacks, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. They also treat patients who have undergone bypass surgery and open-heart surgery. Most of these patients have difficulty in moving. It is due to such conditions, which will highly benefit from physical therapy.

Clinical electrophysiology specialists concentrate on electrotherapy. This is the use of electric currents to diagnose problems and to help muscles regain their function. These specialists help people regain function to immobile limbs, such as being casted for a long time or from a stroke.

  • Geriatrics specialists take care of elderly. Most of which have debilitating conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, balance disorders, and cancer.
  • Neurology specialists care for patients with neurological diseases that may hamper normal living; conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, cerebral palsy, and spinal cord injury.
  • Orthopedics specialists are the most common specialists and take care of patients with musculoskeletal problems, most especially broken bones. They help fractures, strains, sprains, back and neck pain to heal faster.
  • Pediatrics specialists take care of children and developmentally related disorders. They teach kids to walk and write especially those that are behind in development due to congenital disorders.
  • Sports specialists take care of sports-related injuries such as ACL tears, tennis elbows, shoulder dislocations, and broken ankles. They treat recreational athletes to the Olympians.
  • Women’s health specialists take care of pregnancy-related issues. Conditions such as edema and osteoporosis related to pregnancy can be helped by a physical therapist.

Whichever specialization you choose, there is surely room for you. As physical therapy is a growing profession, specialization in a particular area will give you an edge compared to generalists. It allows you to study a particular area of injury in-depth and allows you to treat your patients better in accordance to their injury.


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