Common Physical Therapy Abbreviations and What They Stand For

  • 15 August 2020
  • 3 min read
Common Physical Therapy Abbreviations and What They Stand For

Many terms in the area of medicine are extremely long and painstaking to write out in their full form. The field of physical therapy is no expection and as a result, general practitioners (GP’s) and physical therapists (PT’s) employ a broad selection of physical therapy abbreviations and symbols. But what do those abbreviations stand for? It can be quite difficult to guess, especially if the term is outside your area of direct specialty.

Physical Therapy is a very popular field of medicine – but does it work? Medical research shows that this branch of medicine might even have applications in areas we traditionally would not associate with physical therapy. For example, a recent meta-analysis by Ruiz‐González et al. (2019) in the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research looked at physical therapy interventions for patients with Down syndrome. They concluded:

“The results show the potential benefit of certain types of physical therapy interventions, specifically in strength and balance, in people with Down syndrome. There are still many aspects to clarify and new lines of research.”

The use of physical therapy abbreviations and symbols helps streamline this research, but runs the risk of confusing medical personnel and causing fatal errors. A report in the Institute of Medicine (IOM) entitled To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System showed that over one million injuries and almost 100,000 deaths were due to errors made in the medical system. This report was released many years ago, and many steps have been taken to deal with its worrying findings. There is no doubt that when dealing with abbreviations for physical therapy, it’s best to know what abbreviations you’re using or reading about. Otherwise, you could send your patient on a completely pointless path where they are doing all the wrong exercises, and you don’t realize until it’s too late when their spine is shot!

There are several categories of physical therapy abbreviations. There are Exercise & Treatment Abbreviations, Abbreviations for PT Assistive Devices & Equipment, Exercise & Treatment Abbreviations, Body & Diagnosis Abbreviations, and much more. All of them could be useful for you in your practice. 

So without further ado, here is a list of physical therapy abbreviations that might come in handy for you.

Abbreviation and What it stands for

AAROMactive assistive range of motion
ACJacromioclavicular joint
ACLanterior cruciate ligament
ADLactivities of daily living
AFOankle foot orthosis
AKAabove knee amputation
AROMactive range of motion
BIDtwice a day
BKAbelow knee amputation
CGAcontact guard assist
CKCclosed kinetic chain
CPcold pack
CPMcontinuous passive motion
CTxcervical traction
DJDdegenerative disc disease
E Stimelectrical stimulation
ERexternal rotation
FIM scorefunctional independence level
FWBfull weight bearing
GHJglenohumeral joint
HEPhome exercise program
H/ohistory of
HOBhead of bed
HPhot packs
HVGShigh voltage galvantic stimulation
IRinternal rotation
ITBiliotibial band
KAFOknee ankle foot orthosis
LAQlong arc quad
LBQClarge base quad cane
LCLlateral collateral ligament
LElower extremity
LTGlong term goals
MCLmedial collateral ligament
MFRmyofascial release
MMTmanual muscle test
NWBnon weight bearing
NDTneuro developmental technique
OKCopen kinetic chain
PCLposterior cruciate ligament
PFplantar flexion
PFSpatellofemoral syndrome
PNFproprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation
PMHxpast medical history
PROMpassive range of motion
PTphysical therapist
PTAphysical therapy assistant
PWBpartial weight bearing
QCquad cane
QDevery day
QIDfour times a day
RICErest,ice,compression,elevation ROM- range of motion
SACshort arc quad
SBside bending
SBAstand by assist
SBQCsmall base quad cane
SCstraight cane
SLRstraight leg raise
STMsoft tissue mobilization
TENStranscutaneous electrical stimulation
THAtotal hip arthroplasty
Ther Extherapeutic exercise
TIDthree times a day
TKAtotal knee arthroplasty
TLSOthoracic lumbar sacral orthosis
TTWBtoe touch weight bearing
UEupper extremity
USultra sound
W/cwheel chair
WFLwithin functional limit
WNLwithin normal limits

So, did you know that HEP stood for “Home Exercise Program”? Well, now you do! We hope that this list of medical abbreviations for physical therapy was helpful for you. If you are an aspiring Physical Therapist (PT), you might enjoy this graphic: