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Physical therapy specialties
Advanced training certifies physical therapists to treat specific conditions. For example:
- Sports physical therapists deal with athletic injuries ranging from nagging soreness after a long-distance run to shoulder pain after a fall on the football field. Sports medicine therapists work with coaches and athletic trainers to make sure an athlete returns to sports safely after an injury or surgery. They can also screen athletes to make sure they are physically able to participate in a sport.
- Orthopedic physical therapists treat joint problems of the spine, arms and legs. They help patients recover from total knee or hip surgeries, as well as acute back and neck problems. They also treat sprains and strains of the shoulder, knee, ankle, or foot, along with tennis elbow, wrist and hand injuries.
- Hand therapists help patients regain function and movement following an injury or surgery to their hand, wrist, elbow or shoulder.
- Neurologic physical therapists are specially trained to evaluate and treat people with injuries or diseases of the nervous system. They work with patients who have brain injury, spinal cord injury, Parkinson's disease. They also treat conditions like dizziness or loss of balance that make it difficult to walk and move around.
- Lymphedema physical therapists work with patients with pain from excess fluid in their body, typically after the removal of lymph pathways.
- Pediatric physical therapists work with children who have medical conditions that interfere with normal development, like autism, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, brain injury or other special needs.
- Women's health - physical therapists with specialized training treat many conditions specific to women, including pelvic pain and incontinence and low back pain during pregnancy.
- Vestibular therapists have special training to help patients overcome issues with balance and dizziness.
Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute
Karl J. Sandin
, MD, MPH, medical director, Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute