Mar 25, 2010
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I know it might be an obvious question but i was having a conversation with one of my friends about PT school. I was wondering, how does the knowledge of a physical therapist compare to that of other health professions? for instance, how much anatomy does a PT learn compared to an MD, OT, etc? Are we "masters" of any specific subject that's studied by all health professions?
 
May 15, 2009
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In PT school, the anatomy you learn is focused on muscle, ligaments, bone, joints, nerves, lymph vessels, and important arteries/veins. MDs have to know it all and I don't know about OTs. PTs can be maybe the considered "masters" of musculoskeletal disorders and movement dysfunction related to functional limitations, but usually you're never a master of any one thing.
 

DancerFutureDPT

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Although...my undergrad anatomy professor (who teaches anatomy to DO students at a med school as well) told us in class that if you love anatomy and want to learn it go into PT....MDs and DOs don't know squat about anatomy compared to PTs....sure, a neurosurgeon will know all about the brain (obviously), but in the long run won't be able to tell you anything about the other parts of the body in detail. She said orthopedic surgeons will be the second "best" at knowing anatomy, because they're dealing with various parts of the body too.

It makes sense though when you think about it...A PT will have one patient with a neurological disorder affecting their back/spine, or maybe something in their arm/hand, and then the next patient will have a torn ACL, the next will be a hip replacement, and then a torn ankle tendon. They have to know quite a bit about the body as a whole (although not as much about internal organs as an MD would), but a surgeon only really needs to know what he/she is operating on...a cardiothoracic surgeon really doesn't care about knee anatomy, and isn't going to be constantly reviewing it after gross anatomy class. I've also been told by professors and students at PT schools where anatomy class is combined with the med students that the med students often ask to study with PT students, or ask them for help. Not sure how true that is, but I'd believe it :p
 

MotionDoc

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Oct 29, 2009
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Just to expand on this discussion. When it comes to the entire human body, no one can touch MD/DOs. They know it all, and should always be involved in the care of complicated patients.

With that said, PTs are 'experts' of rehabilitation because they have mastered the musculoskeletal (and neuromuscular depending on the type of PT) system. To fix what's broken (or find ways around it) you first need to know how it normally works, right? Well, for many patients, they have many things 'broken' especially when you start getting into your neurologic patients.

Both MDs and PTs start off with gross anatomy, but compare where the emphasis lies, and you will see the difference (hint: it has to do with what they will be doing in their careers). After anatomy, curriculums quickly diverge. PTs focus on functional anatomy and biomechanics (outside of biomechanists and some orthopods, this is one area where PTs are truly the experts), and then neuroanatomy/neurophysiology, then muscle physiology, then finally rehabilitation (my point: notice everything that had to come before it).
 

WSUPT

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Here's an article I sometimes use as ammunition towards PTs being the best at evaluating MSK injuries (besides orthopods) by Childs et al. I just wish they would have added Chiros to the study since they think they can do our jobs as good as we can.

A description of physical therapists' knowledge in managing
musculoskeletal conditions
 
OP
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Here's an article I sometimes use as ammunition towards PTs being the best at evaluating MSK injuries (besides orthopods) by Childs et al. I just wish they would have added Chiros to the study since they think they can do our jobs as good as we can.

A description of physical therapists' knowledge in managing
musculoskeletal conditions
Mind double checking the article link ... I don't believe it's embedded.
 

jesse14

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In my experience, there are few other professions in which the disparency in knowledge is as apparent as in PT. After you finish your entry level PT degree there is SOO much more to learn. Those that have the desire and will to learn will continue their education and become a better therapist for it. However, these courses are not mandatory and there could just as easily be a PT with zero post-grad education treating a pt in an out-pt setting. Moral of the story: It's impossible to generalize how much PT's as a profession know because it is extremely variable from therapist to therapist.
 

chman

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In my experience, there are few other professions in which the disparency in knowledge is as apparent as in PT. After you finish your entry level PT degree there is SOO much more to learn. Those that have the desire and will to learn will continue their education and become a better therapist for it. However, these courses are not mandatory and there could just as easily be a PT with zero post-grad education treating a pt in an out-pt setting. Moral of the story: It's impossible to generalize how much PT's as a profession know because it is extremely variable from therapist to therapist.
:thumbup:

I would say the same is true for doctors. Obviously an infectious disease doctor is going to know a heck of a lot about physiology, and PT's would probably know more about muscular and skeletal mechanics. But an orthopedic surgeon is going to know a heck of a lot about the latter. It is a matter of specialty.
 
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We (PTs) are the functional (msk) anatomy experts along with physiatrists and orthopods. I hate to judge the profession by the worst specimens....I know many poor PTs, MDs. I wish we spent more time working with each other than fighting against each other.
 

facetguy

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On the topic of musculoskeletal knowledge/education among medical professionals, these might be of interest:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9...ubmed_RVDocSum
Gave a standardized MSK quiz to recent med school grads.
82% failed.
Published in J Bone Joint Surg.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1...ubmed_RVDocSum
Same authors did follow-up a few years later.
78% failed. (A trend toward improvement, no doubt.)
Published in J Bone Joint Surg.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1...ubmed_RVDocSum
Gave MSK quiz to med students, residents and staff physicians.
79% failed.
Published in J Bone Joint Surg.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1...ubmed_RVDocSum
Modified version of MSK quiz given to students at Univ of Washington (not a bad school, if I'm not mistaken).
4th year students did better than 'younger' students.
Still, less than 50% of 4th years "showed competency" (I'm guessing that means failed).
Published in Clin Ortho Relat Res.

(I won't mention the study of what happened when chiro students were given the same test. Oh, heck, why not...):)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1...ubmed_RVDocSum
Not perfect, but way better.
 

MotionDoc

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Oct 29, 2009
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On the topic of musculoskeletal knowledge/education among medical professionals, these might be of interest:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9...ubmed_RVDocSum
Gave a standardized MSK quiz to recent med school grads.
82% failed.
Published in J Bone Joint Surg.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1...ubmed_RVDocSum
Same authors did follow-up a few years later.
78% failed. (A trend toward improvement, no doubt.)
Published in J Bone Joint Surg.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1...ubmed_RVDocSum
Gave MSK quiz to med students, residents and staff physicians.
79% failed.
Published in J Bone Joint Surg.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1...ubmed_RVDocSum
Modified version of MSK quiz given to students at Univ of Washington (not a bad school, if I'm not mistaken).
4th year students did better than 'younger' students.
Still, less than 50% of 4th years "showed competency" (I'm guessing that means failed).
Published in Clin Ortho Relat Res.

(I won't mention the study of what happened when chiro students were given the same test. Oh, heck, why not...):)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1...ubmed_RVDocSum
Not perfect, but way better.
Interesting, the last link mentions a PT study...have a link to that by any chance?
 

jesse14

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:thumbup:

I would say the same is true for doctors. Obviously an infectious disease doctor is going to know a heck of a lot about physiology, and PT's would probably know more about muscular and skeletal mechanics. But an orthopedic surgeon is going to know a heck of a lot about the latter. It is a matter of specialty.
Only problem is that one wouldn't see an infectious disease doc for back pain. However, a lay person sees two PT clinics and has no idea how to judge which one has the "better" therapist. Meanwhile, at MSK clinic A there is a therapists who has attained fellowship status in manual and manipulative therapy and at MSK clinic B there is a therapist with no post-grad education and uses heat packs and IFC from anything from subacromial impigenemnt to PFPS...see what i'm getting at here? The level of knoweldge within this profession is diverse..even in those PTs who practice in the same clincal setting