There are many types of physical therapy. As a therapist, you’ll play an integral role in prioritizing the health of your patients. Choosing a Physical Therapy specialty can benefit your team and your patients immensely. If you’re thinking about becoming a Physical Therapist, here are some of the great specialties you choose from.

physical therapist and patient

The purpose of your profession is to aid in the restoration, optimal movement, and function immediately following the onset of a medical condition, disease, and/or injury.

As a hands-on healthcare professional, you will evaluate dysfunctions associated with movement, assist in the development of health care plans, and take measures that will aid in the treatment of your patients.

You may choose one or more of the many physical therapy specialties we outline here.

As you research, you will quickly discover that there are many types of physical therapy. While many place their focus on just one area, there are PTs that elect to choose more than one specialty.

Each specialty has its own unique purpose and its own set of responsibilities. While the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties has requirements in place for nine specialties, there are actually quite a few more areas where you may place your focus. In this guide, you will learn about these specialties.

Amputee Rehabilitation

amputee physical therapy

According to research, at least 130,000 amputations occur in the United States each year. Individuals that must recover from such an experience will face many challenges. Additionally, they must endure many psychological and emotional issues. Amputee Rehabilitation with a Physical Therapist can help these people.

As a physical therapist with a focus on this specialty, you will assist in caring for the area where the amputation took place, helping the individuals in functional training and walking training, and helping the patient learn how to utilize new assistive devices, such as prosthetic limbs, canes, and similar devices.

Aquatic Physical Therapy

aquatic physical therpay

Aquatic physical therapy is a specialty that creates a safe, healing environment for patients. Examples of those that benefit from this type of physical therapy include individuals with musculoskeletal, cardiopulmonary, integumentary, and/or neuromuscular conditions.

Essentially, the physical therapy exercises are performed in water, under your supervision and guidance. This type of physical therapy is designed to improve or assist in maintaining function, balance, flexibility, gait, relaxation, muscle strength, stabilization, breathing, and other body mechanics.

Balance, Dizziness, and Vertigo Rehabilitation

physical therapy for balance

If you enjoy working with patients that suffer from balance problems, dizziness, or medical conditions such as BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positioning Vertigo), you should choose balance, dizziness, and vestibular rehabilitation as your physical therapy specialty.

In this specialty, you will educate patients, instruct on safety, aid in strengthening the body, focus on exercises that help in posture and balance, and focus on techniques that directly impact the balance and the sensory components of the brain and limbs.

Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy

cardiopulmonary physical therapy

If you have an interest in the heart and the lungs, cardiopulmonary physical therapy is for you. You will focus on helping your patients regain as much function as possible in the respiratory and/or cardiac system immediately following an illness or injury that was considered to be debilitating.

Patients you will work closely within this profession include those that have had a heart attack, have undergone bypass surgery, or have serious breathing problems.

Fitness and Wellness Physical Therapy

fitness physical therapy

Many physical therapists choose to go into the specialty of fitness and wellness. In this profession, you will help patients become as physically fit as possible so that their general health improves.

Examples of patients that you may see include those that are overweight, those that have diabetes, or the elderly that have osteoporosis and want to improve their health and prevent falls.

Geriatric Physical Therapy

geriatric physical therapy

If you enjoy working with older populations, you should focus on the specialty of geriatric physical therapy. In this specialty, your focus will be on senior rehabilitation.

As individuals age, the body starts to suffer. Stiffness, loss of strength, balance issues, bone weakness, and longer recovery/healing times are very common.

As a geriatric physical therapist, you will help the seniors that you work with gain more strength, flexibility, and endurance. Additionally, you will focus on fall prevention and recovery.

Hand and Wrist Physical Therapy

hand and wrist physical therapy

If you have an interest in working with patients that have experienced an accident, illness, or other types of trauma that have negatively impacted their hand or hands, hand and wrist physical therapy is the perfect option for your career.

You will work closely with your patients. These include those that have suffered from burns, injuries to the nerves and tendons, bone breaks, amputations, and other complications that hurt their hand and/or wrist.

You may also work with those suffering from a neurological condition, arthritis, and/or cumulative trauma disorder – such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Industrial Rehabilitation

industrial physical therapy

If you elect to go into the physical therapy specialty of industrial rehabilitation, you will play an important role in preventing workplace injuries and assisting those that have experienced an injury while working.

You may also evaluate the ergonomics of the workspace, evaluate the work that a patient does, and complete Functional Capacity Evaluations (FCE).

Lymphedema Rehabilitation

massage therapy

The lymph system – which is a part of the circulatory system – is critical for health and comfort. Many individuals develop a medical condition called “lymphedema”. This involves an abnormal amount of lymphatic fluid in the arms and/or legs that causes swelling and discomfort.

The goal of lymphedema rehabilitation is to reduce swelling and the inflammation that occurs. To enhance the overall flexibility and strength levels of the patient. To optimize the healing of wounds and to improve the texture of the skin.

Techniques used include massage therapy, bandaging techniques, and special positioning.

Manual Physical Therapy

Manual Physical Therapy

In the Manual physical therapy specialty, you will use hands-on techniques to improve patients that have movement problems. Examples include the Mulligan mobilizations, Kaltenborn techniques, and neural mobilization.

Not only do these techniques help in optimizing patient movements, but they also assist in eliminating common symptoms, such as pain.

Neurological Physical Therapy

wheel chair

When working in this physical therapy specialty, you will evaluate and treat patients that have movement problems as a result of an injury, medical condition, and/or disease of the nervous system. Neurological Physical Therapy is the specialty to go into.

Examples of these conditions include stroke, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, vestibular disorders, and Parkinson disease.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy

If you have a passion for treating people that are injured, sick or have a disability in order to help them recover, improve, and develop skills that are necessary for them to live and work day to day, occupational therapy is the specialty that you should choose.

The goal is to ensure that your patients become as independent as is possible, given their condition.

Oncology Physical Therapy

freedom from cancer

Millions of people suffer from cancer throughout the United States. Many have to undergo special treatments and surgery. Your job is to work with these patients prior to and immediately after medical interventions.

The goal is to address any functional issues that may arise and to help the patient overcome those challenges.

Generally, you will be helping to improve the quality of life of the people that you work with during one of the most challenging periods throughout their lifetime.

Orthopedic Physical Therapy

skeleton anatomy

The orthopedic specialty is considered to be the most common of all physical therapy specialties.

If you are searching for a general career in physical therapy that will allow you to work with patients who have received surgery, experienced a broken bone, experienced muscular issues, suffer from pain, and have conditions that involve the bones and other components of the body, this is for you.

Osteoporosis Rehabilitation and Prevention

elderly riding bikes

Osteoporosis is a devastating disease in which millions suffer. By working in this specialty, you will be able to create a special program for patients that involves resistance and weight-bearing training. This will help patients will a more positive and productive life while enduring the disease.

Pediatric Physical Therapy

If you love kids, pediatric physical therapy is the way to go! Here, you will work to rehabilitate kids that are suffering from a wide range of injuries and illnesses.

These may include developmental conditions, cerebral palsy, neurological conditions, and orthopedic problems.

The regimen will consist of therapeutic play that excites children.

Many feel that this is one of the most rewarding of physical therapy specialties.

Sports Rehabilitation

Sports Rehabilitation

Sports rehabilitation professionals help patients during the recovery process after becoming injured or having surgery performed.

Examples of therapies used include running, jumping, throwing, and stretching.

Vestibular Rehabilitation

Vestibular Therapy

Many patients suffer from dizziness, which causes balance issues. In this physical therapy specialty, your job is to create a special program that includes exercises that are meant to improve balance and reduce dizzy spells.

Most of the exercises that the patient performs involve the head.

It has been estimated that approximately 42% of our country’s population suffers from dizziness at some point in their life. This is not only uncomfortable, but it could result in falls.

Your role will focus on improving the quality of life for patients.

Women’s Health

woman stretching

There are many physical therapists that specialize in women’s health. A Womens Certified Specialist can treat many of these issues women have. Examples of these issues that may be addressed include incontinence, painful menstruation, pain in the pelvic region, and complications due to pregnancy.

Wound Care

wounded knee

If you are in search of a specialty where you can truly observe progress, wound care is the best. In this, you will care for wounds.

Examples of your role may include applying special types of bandages, putting ointments and salves on the wound, utilizing electric-based stimulation, incorporating water-based modalities, and other activities that will promote the healing of wounds.

If necessary, exercises may be incorporated into the care plan in order to promote the healing process.

In Conclusion

There are many physical therapy specialties available for those in search of a rewarding career. As a physical therapist, your role is essential in the care of patients. From caring for an amputee to serious wounds, you have the ability to make an immense difference.

To connect to other physical therapists and to increase your opportunity to work in the specialty of your choice, join our comprehensive network today:

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