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North Carolina PT Scope of Practice

How is physical therapy defined in North Carolina?

"Physical therapy" means the evaluation or treatment of any person by the use of physical, chemical, or other properties of heat, light, water, electricity, sound, massage, or therapeutic exercise, or other rehabilitative procedures, with or without assistive devices, for the purposes of preventing, correcting, or alleviating a physical or mental disability.

What is included in the practice of physical therapy?

The practice of physical therapy includes tests of joint motion, muscle length and strength, posture and gait, limb length and circumference, activities of daily living, pulmonary function, cardio-vascular function, nerve and muscle electrical properties, orthotic and prosthetic fit and function, sensation and sensory perception, reflexes and muscle tone, and sensorimotor and other skilled performances; treatment procedures such as hydrotherapy, shortwave or microwave diathermy, ultrasound, infra-red and ultraviolet radiation, cryotherapy, electrical stimulation including transcutaneous electrical neuromuscular stimulation, massage, debridement, intermittent vascular compression, iontophoresis, machine and manual traction of the cervical and lumbar spine, joint mobilization, machine and manual therapeutic exercise including isokinetics and biofeedback; and training in the use of orthotic, prosthetic and other assistive devices including crutches, canes and wheelchairs.

Physical therapy further includes:

Examining (history, system review and tests and measures) individuals in order to determine a diagnosis, prognosis, and intervention within the physical therapist's scope of practice. Tests and measures include the following:

    • Aerobic capacity and endurance;
    • Anthropometric characteristics;
    • Arousal, attention, and cognition;
    • Assistive and adaptive devices;
    • Community and work (job/school/play) integration or reintegration;
    • Cranial nerve integrity;
    • Environmental, home, and work (job/school/play) barriers;
    • Ergonomics and body mechanics;
    • Gait, locomotion, and balance;
    • Integumentary integrity;
    • Joint integrity and mobility;
    • Motor function;
    • Muscle performance;
    • Neuromotor development and sensory integration;
    • Orthotic, protective and supportive devices;
    • Pain;
    • Posture;
    • Prosthetic requirements;
    • Range of motion;
    • Reflex integrity;
    • Self-care and home management;
    • Sensory integrity; and
    • Ventilation, respiration, and circulation.

Alleviating impairment and functional limitation by designing, implementing, and modifying therapeutic interventions that include the following:

    • Coordination, communication and documentation;
    • Patient/client-related instruction;
    • Therapeutic exercise (including aerobic conditioning);
    • Functional training in self-care and home management (including activities of daily living and instrumental activities of daily living);
    • Functional training in community and work (jobs/school/play) integration or reintegration activities (including instrumental activities of daily living, work hardening, and work conditioning);
    • Manual therapy techniques (including mobilization and manipulation);
    • Prescription, application, and fabrication of assistive, adaptive, orthotic, protective, supportive, and prosthetic devices and equipment that is within the scope of practice of physical therapy;
    • Airway clearance techniques;
    • Wound management;
    • Electrotherapeutic modalities; and
    • Physical agents and mechanical modalities

Preventing injury, impairment, functional limitation, and disability, including the promotion and maintenance of fitness, health, and quality of life in all age populations.

What is specifically excluded from the practice?

Physical therapy does not include the application of roentgen rays or radioactive materials, surgery, the practice of chiropractic, or medical diagnosis of disease.

Are there any special trainings or requirements?



N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-270.90

21 NCAC 48C .0101

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