Physical Therapy FAQ

This list of frequently asked questions is partially related to the ‘Physical Therapy Web’ site itself, though general physical therapy questions are included as well. The questions are compiled from those that have been sent in over the years. If you have a question that doesn’t appear in the list, please feel free to contact us.

What is physical therapy?

“Physiotherapy (also known as physical therapy) is a health profession concerned with the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of disease and disability through physical means. It is based upon principles of medical science, and is generally held to be within the sphere of conventional (rather than alternative) medicine. “
— from Wikipedia

What is physiotherapy?

The terms ‘physiotherapy’ and ‘physical therapy’ are interchangeable. ‘Physical therapy’ is most commonly used in the United States while most of the rest of the world uses the term ‘physiotherapy’ instead.

What does DPT mean?

DPT means ‘Doctor of Physical Therapy’ or ‘Doctor of Physiotherapy’. The DPT first started in the United States in 1992 as a “transitional” degree for individuals who already had physical therapy degrees. It is now offered in its non-transitional form in the United States and many other parts of the world. Physical Therapy schools are transitioning to exclusively DPT programs.

What does the FCAMPT designation mean?

FCAMPT stands for Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Manipulative Physiotherapy. Therapists with the FCAMPT designation “have completed post-graduate education and attained internationally-recognized qualifications in hands-on therapy”.

What does AAROM mean?

AAROM is an acronym for Active Assisted Range of Motion, a term commonly used by physical therapists to refer to physical movements through the normal or available range of motion with assistance. The assistance can be provided by a therapist or by the patient themselves through the use of devices, such as towels, pulleys or other assistive devices.

What does AROM mean?

AROM is an acronym for Active Range of Motion, a term commonly used by physical therapists when referring to the range of movement through which a patient can actively (without external assistance) move a joint using the muscles adjacent to the joint.

What does PROM mean?

PROM is an acronym for Passive Range of Motion, a term commonly used by physical therapists when referring to moving a body part through it’s available range without the activation of the patient’s muscles. The movement itself is performed by an external source such as a physical therapist.

What does “varus” mean?

Varus refers to an inward angulation of the distal segment of a bone or joint. For example, a person with both knees in varus has “Genu Varus” and is sometimes referred to as ‘bow-legged’. It is common for people to mix up the terms ‘varus’ and ‘valgus’ so a common way physical therapists keep them straight is by thinking of a ‘bow-legged’ cowboy saying ‘Varus my horse?”. 

What does “valgus” mean?

Valgus refers to an outward angulation of the distal segment of a bone or joint. For example, a person with both knees with valgus has Genu Valgus and is sometimes referred to as ‘knock-kneed’.

What is an “end feel”?

An end feel is the feeling, or sensation, that a person feels when they move a joint to its end of available range of motion. The type of end feel can be indicative of the health of the joint or the presence of possible injury. Some of the terms often used to describe an end feel include soft, rubbery, mushy, squishy, springy, boggy, abrupt, bony, hard, capsular, stretchy, empty, spasm.

What is a “bursa”?

A bursa is a fluid-filled sac or saclike cavity, especially one countering friction at a joint.

What is “bursitis”?

Bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa, typically one in the knee, elbow, ankle or shoulder.

What does ‘subluxation’ mean?

Subluxation is the partial displacement or partial dislocation of a joint. The joint surfaces are still partly in contact. The joint is not completely dislocated.

What is a ‘manipulation’ in physical therapy?

In physical therapy, a manipulation is when the therapist applies a specific force to a joint in order to move it beyond its normal PROM. A joint manipulation is often accompanied by a cracking sound.

What does “HEP” mean?

HEP is short for ‘Home Exercise Program’. View our list of Exercise Prescription Software often used for creating home exercise programs.

What is Iliotibial Band Syndrome?

Iliotibial Band Syndrome is a condition in which a person experiences lateral knee pain due to the Iliotibial Band (ITB) rubbing on the lateral epicondyle of the femur, causing local inflammation. The rubbing of the band on the knee is usually considered to be due to tightness in the tensor fasciae latae, a hip muscle that attaches to the ITB.

What is the “Coffee Cup Sign”?

The coffee cup sign is characterized by pain during simple grip activities such as grabbing and lifting a coffee cup. It is typically present in people with lateral epicondylitis, otherwise known as Tennis Elbow.

What does SLAP stand for?

The acronym SLAP is named for the Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior. You can read about how to test for such lesions on our examination special test page for the Anterior Slide Test.

I’m interested in a career in physical therapy. How do I get started?

Check out our ‘Becoming a Physical Therapist‘ article. It contains information on what it means to be a physical therapist and what to do to get into a physical therapy school.

What is a Physical Therapist Assistant?

For information on this, please see the following page:
What is a Physical Therapist Assistant?

What is a Physical Therapist Aide?

For information on this, please see the following page:
What is a Physical Therapist Aide?

What is Therapeutic Ultrasound?

Therapeutic ultrasound is a modality that uses high-frequency sound waves to promote healing by increasing the blood flow to an area of the body. It is commonly used in physical therapy practice. For a more complete explanation, please see the following page:
Therapeutic Ultrasound in Physical Therapy

What is Shockwave Therapy?

Shockwave therapy is an electrotherapeuitic modality used by physical therapists to promote tissue healing via microtrauma caused by high energy acoustic pulses. For a more complete explanation, please see the following page: Shockwave Therapy / Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT)

Where did this site get its original name ‘Physical Therapy Web Space’?

The name ‘Web Space’ was actually intended to be a clever play on words. While studying for gross anatomy class back in physical therapy school I came across the term ‘web space’ in reference to the area of skin between the fingers, particularly between the index finger and the thumb. At about the same time I was creating the original incarnation of this ‘web’ site and thought the name would be an appropriate and amusing double entendre. Unfortunately, it seems I was the only one to think so. Either nobody else in the physio world picked up on the connection or everyone thought the joke to be too lame to acknowledge. Not very clever at all I suppose. Regardless, the name has stuck.

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