What is a Physical Therapist Assistant? 


Let’s begin by defining what is physical therapy. Physical therapy is the restoration of mobility, stability, power, function, and reduction of pain and/or limiting compensation. A Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) is an assistive personnel to the physical therapy (PT). A PTA is required to have an associates degree in applied science as a PTA. Once he or she completes all school work they are eligible to take the National Physical Therapist Assistant Exam. The role of a PTA is to assist the PT patients treatment.  


The PT will perform an examination of the patient and establish a Plan Of Care (POC). When the POC is established the PT and PTA communicate back and forth during treatments and the duration. PTAs are able to perform manual therapy, progress and/or regress therapeutic exercises, therapeutic activities, neuromuscular reeducation, gait (walking) training. Manual therapy can consist of soft tissue mobilization, Passive ROM of Motion (PROM), Active Assistive Range of Motion (AAROM), joint mobilizations, manual stretching, trigger point releases, activite releases to musculature, taping techniques, cupping, and different forms of scraping techniques. With therapeutic exercises and activities the PT sets guidelines/goals in the POC for a PTA to follow. An example of a guideline/goals could be improve hamstrings flexibility and strength. A PTA could have the patient perform squats, single leg deadlift, romanian deadlift, and or other exercises. 


With neuromuscular reeducation a PT can set a goal of improving balance. The PTA can have the patient perform balance with both legs and/or progress to single leg or a dynamic balance activity. With gait training a PTA is able to teach the proper sequence with assistive devices e.g. cains, walkers, crutches, and other devices. A PTA can treat patients once a POC has been established. Currently in Arizona PTA are not allowed to perform dry needling. When patients have dry needling in their POC it is important for the PTA to communicate with the PT and the PT can perform the procedure and have the PTA complete the rest of the treatment for the patient. A PTA can take objective measurements ROM and strength. With all objective measurements the PTA will document. A PTA and PT work as a team to provide the best and highest quality of care for the patient. 


Essentially, when in therapy, a PT and PTA act together- one might dry needle and the other might do the tissue work and joint mobilizations as well as administer exercises. The PTA is the ‘right hand man’ for the PT and works as an extension of their own skills. 


Alex, our new PTA has extensive, over 10 years of experience, with soft tissue work (fascial, trigger point), joint mobilization, and specific exercise prescription.  He is our go to guy for everything neck related. What’s beautiful about having a PTA on staff now is that he can help with treatments and open up spot to get more evaluations so that you can get in sooner!

If you have any questions, give us a call. 

Chandler Physical Therapy is a family owned and operated Physical Therapy clinic in Chandler, Arizona. We treat active adults who are looking to keep themselves pain free and active through exercise and healthy living.
If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below and ask or, we have a Free Discovery Visit (Half Hour) that allows you to sit down, one on one with a therapist to discuss what you have going on to find out if physical therapy is a good fit for you. Check it out below:

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This FREE, 30 minute, one-on-one evaluation is where one of our amazing therapists will sit down with you, get your story and your background and then run through a series of specific movement and strength tests so you know whether physical therapy is a good path for you!