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Physical Therapy

What Are Physical Therapy Specialties?

January 5th, 2022 | 3 min. read

What Are Physical Therapy Specialties?
Kevin Coleman

Kevin Coleman

Licensed Physical Therapist, PT , DPT // Clinical Director of EW Motion Therapy Tuscaloosa

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Sometimes in life, you need more specialized care. If you have arthritis, you might see a rheumatologist. If you need braces, you go to an orthodontist. Indeed, in the general practice of medicine, there are many directions an aspiring practitioner can take, whether they want to treat a specific audience or a particular condition. 


Physical therapy is no different. Licensed doctors of physical therapy receive a broad education during physical therapy school and can treat many patients and conditions. But what if a physical therapist has a particular passion for hand injuries or treating children? Any physical therapist has the opportunity to continue their education and pursue additional certifications, known as specializations or specialties. 


At EW Motion Therapy, our team has expansive knowledge and many years of experience under their collective belt. We want to treat any patient with any condition where we feel we can make a difference for the better. Even if you do not choose us for your physical therapy treatment, we still want to provide some clarification on specialties and how seeing a specialist might affect your experience. 


This article discusses physical therapy specializations, including the general certification process and the benefits of seeing a specialist. With this information, you can decide whether you should see a specialist for your condition. 


How can a physical therapist earn a specialty certification?

Many specializations exist within the physical therapy field, including (but not limited to) pediatric, geriatric, pelvic floor, women’s health, manual therapy, and sports medicine. To become a specialist in one of these, a physical therapist must usually complete coursework, participate in an internship, and/or sit for an exam. 


Most specializations require at least some field experience, so a brand new PT school grad might not be able to test for a specialization until they have gained experience. There can be a lot of overlap in specialties, and sometimes a therapist can become a specialist through many years of experience treating a certain age group, type of patient, or condition.


Some specialization courses allow you to complete the coursework on your own time, which is suitable for busy practicing physical therapists. Many physical therapists agree that the credentials provide a great return on their investment of time and resources.


Benefits of seeing a specialized physical therapist 

Seeing a specialized physical therapist might be better for specific conditions, types of patients, or age groups. Since they have done the coursework and taken the exam associated with their specialty, they can be considered an expert in that particular condition or age group, which can be better for the patient. If your grandmother is having mobility issues related to her aging body, a geriatric physical therapist might be able to give her the best advice. If your son tears his ACL playing football, a sports medicine therapist can offer sports-related treatment based on their own experience. 


Also, if you have an incredibly specific diagnosis, a specialist might have the best chance to give you the advice and treatment you need. If you are struggling with your mobility and daily function after giving birth, for example, a women’s health specialist should know more about how to help you. 


However, advanced certifications without clinical experience and expertise may not be of any advantage. There are many instances where there is no substitute for experience, and it is always prudent to make sure a therapist has spent time treating the condition or type of patient in question. Unfortunately, this is not always a given, even with an advanced certification.


Which practitioner should I choose?

Now you know more about specializations in physical therapy and how a practitioner with an advanced certification can help you move better. At the end of the day, a physical therapist with advanced certifications and/or clinical expertise could be a tremendous benefit in empowering you to fulfill your potential. Read our article here to learn more about what physical therapists do. 


At EW Motion Therapy, our therapists are encouraged to continue their education, and we promote an environment of continual learning through our EW University program and multiple specialization tracks. Many of our team members have earned certifications in manual therapy, Pilates, yoga, and women’s health, as well as specializations in golf, running, and the throwing athlete. If you are interested in our physical therapy services, fill out the Request an Appointment form on our website, and someone from our staff will contact you within 48 hours with your next steps.