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Are Physical Therapists Doctors? 

Written by Teo Buzas, PT, DPT


What is a physical therapist? 

                 A DPT is a doctorate in physical therapy. Physical therapists who have a DPT train as doctors in the science of physical therapy. They help people live healthy and active lives. Many people have pain, injuries, or other health conditions that need treatment. Physical therapists care for people who want to be proactive with their health and wellness, working on optimal health, and preventing future problems. Not all physical therapists have a doctorate in physical therapy. Some excellent physical therapists have only a master’s or bachelor’s degree in physical therapy.

              How do you know which physical therapist to see? The American Physical Therapy Association states, “physical therapy will be provided by doctors of physical therapy, recognized as the practitioners of choice to whom consumers have direct access for the diagnosis of, interventions for, and prevention of impairments, activity limitations, participation restrictions, and environmental barriers related to movement, function, and health.” Physical therapists are orthopedic experts. They are not medical doctors or orthopedic physicians.


Physical therapists are allied health professionals. 

             Allied health refers to professions that are distinct from medicine and nursing. Allied health encompasses a broad group of health professionals who use scientific principles and evidence-based practices for the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of acute and chronic diseases. They aim to promote disease prevention and wellness for optimum health while applying administration and management skills to support health care systems in a variety of settings (1).


Can you go directly to a physical therapist?

              Direct access offers you the ability to go directly to a physical therapist without a referral from a physician. This can save you time and money. Doctors of physical therapy (DPT) can appropriately evaluate you to determine the proper course of recovery treatment. DPTs have extensive education to identify possible problems that require consultation with or referral to another health care provider. Physical therapists are the go-to for injuries, pain, recovery, preventive maintenance as well as health and wellness.


At Bridging the Gap Physical Therapy, we are here for you. We offer full-body evaluations and will discuss your treatment plan. This includes your diagnosis, your goals, and the plan for getting you there. Find out more by speaking to our team today at 239-676-0546.