Specialty areas Because the body of knowledge of physical therapy is quite large, some PTs specialize in a specific clinical area. While there are many different types of physical therapy. Worldwide the six most common specialty areas in physical therapy are:1) Cardiopulmonary
Cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation physical therapists treat a wide variety of individuals with cardiopulmonary disorders or those who have had cardiac or pulmonary surgery. Primary goals of this specialty include increasing endurance and functional independence. Manual therapy is utilized in this field to assist in clearing lung secretions experienced with cystic fibrosis. Disorders, including heart attacks,post coronary bypass surgery, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pulmonary fibrosis, treatments can benefit from cardiovascular and pulmonary specialized physical therapists.2) Geriatric
Geriatric physical therapy covers a wide area of issues concerning people as they go through normal adult aging, but is usually focused on the older adult. There are many conditions that affect many people as they grow older and include but are not limited to the following: arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, hip and joint replacement, balance disorders, incontinence, etc. Geriatric physical therapy helps those affected by such problems in developing a specialized program to help restore mobility, reduce pain, and increase fitness levels.3) Neurological
Neurological physical therapy is a discipline focused on working with individuals who have a neurological disorder or disease. These include Alzheimer's disease, ALS, brain injury, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury, and stroke. Common impairments associated with neurologic conditions include impairments of; vision, balance, ambulation, activities of daily living, movement, speech and loss of functional independence.4) Orthopedic
Orthopedic physical therapists diagnose, manage, and treat disorders and injuries of the musculoskeletal system including rehabilitation after orthopedic surgery. This specialty of physical therapy is most often found in the out-patient clinical setting. Orthopedic therapists are trained in the treatment of post-operative orthopedic procedures, fractures, acute sports injuries, arthritis, sprains, strains, back and neck pain, spinal conditions and amputations. Joint and spine mobilization/manipulation, therapeutic exercise, neuromuscular reeducation, hot/cold packs, and electrical muscle stimulation (e.g., cryotherapy, iontophoresis, electrotherapy) are modalities often used to expedite recovery in the orthopedic setting. Those who have suffered injury or disease affecting the muscles, bones, ligaments, or tendons of the body will benefit from assessment by a physical therapist specialized in orthopedics.5) Pediatric
Pediatric physical therapy assists in early detection of health problems and uses a wide variety of modalities to treat disorders in the pediatric population. These therapists are specialized in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of infants, children, and adolescents with a variety of congenital, developmental, neuromuscular, skeletal, or acquired disorders/diseases. Treatments focus on improving gross and fine motor skills, balance and coordination, strength and endurance as well as cognitive and sensory processing/integration. Children with developmental delays, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, or torticollis, may be treated by pediatric physical therapists.Integumentary
Integumentary (treatment of conditions involving the skin and related organs). Common conditions managed include wounds and burns. Physical therapists utilize surgical instruments, mechanical lavage, dressings and topical agents to debride necrotic tissue and promote tissue healing. Other commonly used interventions include exercise, edema control, splinting, and compression garments.