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Why is protecting the term “physical therapy” important?

Tuesday, November 12, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: IPTA Staff
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Why is protecting the term “physical therapy” important?

Physical therapy is not a generic term. It describes the care and services provided by or under the direction of a licensed physical therapist. Other health care providers have attempted to classify physical agents, mechanical modalities, and/or electrotherapy as "physical therapy" or "physiotherapy”, but the use of these modalities should be described as the practice of physical therapy only when a licensed physical therapist provides the modalities. 

What makes the terms physical therapy and physiotherapy exclusive to the physical therapy profession is the distinct education of physical therapists, the special body of knowledge of the physical therapy profession, the regulatory standards and requirements for licensure as a physical therapist, and the unique perspective, specific skills, practice standards, and specialized care that are provided by licensed physical therapists.

While the Illinois Physical Therapy Act contains language specifically protecting terms and titles, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) has taken the position that chiropractors may advertise physical therapy without having a licensed physical therapist on staff. 

Under the Medical Practice Act of 1987, chiropractors may delegate patient treatment to unlicensed individuals, and this is resulting in services advertised as physical therapy being provided by unlicensed, unskilled aides working under the general supervision of a licensed chiropractor. These aides lack formal education and the clinical decision-making skills of a physical therapist or the clinical problem-solving skills of a physical therapist assistant. 

Simply training someone to perform modalities with a patient without understanding the science and theories behind it is not adequate nor is it safe because that unlicensed individual would also not be able to recognize signs and symptoms of further injury, impairment or deterioration in the patient’s condition.

The IPTA needs our state legislators to understand the dangers that lack of enforcement of term protection cause. 


November and December are times when your state representative and senator are in their local offices which provides a great opportunity for you to stop in and talk term protection so that we can raise awareness and work towards a solution that will provide consumer protection and transparency as it was intended to.

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