6 min read

The ABCs of PT: Navigating Common Physical Therapy Abbreviations

As physical therapists, we are entrusted with the responsibility of restoring mobility, alleviating pain, and enhancing the quality of life for our patients. In pursuing these goals, we often find ourselves navigating a labyrinth of medical terminology, clinical jargon, and, yes, those ubiquitous abbreviations. The world of physical therapy is full of its own lexicon, replete with acronyms that can sometimes resemble an intricate code. As dedicated practitioners, it is incumbent upon us to not only decipher this code but also utilize it effectively in our daily practice. Hence, this blog serves as a beacon of knowledge, shedding light on the most prevalent and indispensable abbreviations in physical therapy.

Physical Therapy Abbreviations

It's like learning a new language, but you'll find it helpful once you get the hang of it. In healthcare, we're all about making things as transparent and efficient as possible. That's where these little shortcuts come in handy. Instead of saying long, complicated phrases, we can use these abbreviations to communicate the point faster and easier. Whether you are a seasoned practitioner, a recent graduate, or an aspiring student, this comprehensive guide to the most common physical therapy abbreviations will be a valuable resource, enhancing your clinical communication and fostering a deeper understanding of the intricacies within our discipline.

Advantage of Abbreviations

1. Clear and Efficient Communication: In the fast-paced physical therapy environment, precise communication is paramount. Abbreviations like "ROM" (Range of Motion) or "HEP" (Home Exercise Program) allow us to quickly convey crucial information during discussions with colleagues, patients, and other healthcare professionals. This brevity minimizes misunderstandings and ensures that everyone is on the same page.

2. Comprehensive Documentation: Abbreviations play a pivotal role in maintaining accurate patient records. They let us briefly record assessment findings, treatment plans, and progress notes. This documentation is a valuable reference for tracking patients' journeys and making informed decisions about their care.

3. Enhanced Collaboration: Collaborating with fellow therapists, doctors, and specialists is fundamental to patient care. Abbreviations provide a universal shorthand that facilitates efficient information sharing. Whether discussing a patient's "ADLs" (Activities of Daily Living) or the effectiveness of "TENS" (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), these abbreviations ensure that vital details are conveyed without unnecessary jargon.

4. Time-Saving: Our schedules are often jam-packed with back-to-back appointments. Abbreviations help us save precious time during note-taking, allowing us to focus more on patient interaction and treatment. This time efficiency ultimately translates into improved patient care and a more streamlined workflow.

5. Consistency and Accuracy: Standardized abbreviations maintain consistency across our documentation and communication. This consistency reduces the chances of errors and misinterpretations, promoting accuracy in our records and the care we provide.

Now that you've grasped the benefits of these abbreviations, let's delve into Shortforms


ADL Activities of Daily Living
AFO Ankle-Foot Orthosis
AROM Active Range of Motion
ASIA American Spinal Injury Association
APTA American Physical Therapy Association
ABD Abduction
ACJ Acromioclavicular joint
ACL Anterior cruciate ligament
AD Assistive device
ADD Adduction
ADL Activities of daily living
AKA Above-knee amputation
Amb Ambulation
AROM Active range of motion
AAROM Active assistive range of motion
AMA Against Medical Advice


B Bilateral
BID Twice a Day
BKA Below Knee Amputation
B/L Bilateral
BMI Body Mass Index
BOS Base of Support
BPM Beats Per Minute
BAPS Biomechanical Ankle Platform System
Bwd Backward


C With
CGA Contact guard assist
CKC Closed kinetic chain
CPM Continuous passive motion
CTx Cervical traction
cerv Cervical
CF Cystic Fibrosis
C/o Complains Of
CNS Central Nervous System
CP Cold Pack, Cerebral Palsy
C/S Cervical Spine
CTr Costo-Transverse
CV Costo-Vertebral
CVA Cerebrovascular accident
C-Collar Cervical collar
CAM Boot control ankle motion boot
CMC carpometacarpal (joint)
COPD chronic obstructive pulmonary disease


DB Dumbbell
DF Dorsiflexion (of the ankle)
D/C Discharge
DDD Degenerative Disc Disease
DIP Distal Interphalangeal Joint
DJD Degenerative Joint Disease
DOB Date of Birth
DOI Date of Injury
DOS Date of surgery
DVT Deep Vein Thrombosis
Dx Diagnosis
DC Chiropractor
DME Durable medical equipment
DMD Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy


ER External Rotation
Estim or ES Electrical Stimulation
ESWT Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy
EV Eversion (of the ankle)
Ex Exercise
EXT Extension
EEG Electroencephalogram
EOB Edge of bed


FIM score Functional Independence Level
FLEX Flexion
FWB Full Weight Bearing
Fx Fracture
FWW Front-wheeled walker
FES Functional Electrical Stimulation
FCR Flexor Carpi Radialis
FCU Flexor Carpi Ulnaris
F/u Follow up
fwd forward


GHJ Glenohumeral Joint


H/o History of
HEP Home Exercise Program
Horiz ABD Horizontal Abduction
HOB Head of bed
Horiz ADD Horizontal Adduction
HP Hot Packs
HVGS High Voltage Galvanic Stimulation
Hx History
HKAFO Hip-knee-ankle foot orthosis


I Independent
IFC Interferential Current
INF Inflammation
Inv Inversion
Ionto Iontophoresis
IR Internal Rotation
ITB Iliotibial Band
ITBS Iliotibial Band Syndrome
IV Inversion (of the ankle)
Inv Inversion
IE Initial evaluation


KAFO knee ankle foot orthosis


L Left
LTG Long-Term Goals
LPT Licensed Physical Therapist
LAQ long-arc quad
LBQC Large-base quad cane
LE Lower extremity
LCL Lateral collateral ligament
LOA Level of assist
LOS Length of stay
LP Leg press
LSO Lumbosacral orthosis
LUE Left upper extremity


MC Metacarpal
MSK Musculoskeletal
MDT Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy
MCL Medial Collateral Ligament
MCP Metacarpophalangeal
Mobs Mobilization
MFR Myofascial Release
MHP Moist Hot Pack
Mm Muscle
MMT Manual Muscle Test
MT Metatarsal
mTBI Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
MVA Motor Vehicle Accident
MWM Mobilization With Movement


NDT Neuro-Developmental Technique (Bobath Technique)
NMES Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation
NWB Non-Weight Bearing
NSAIDS Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
NAGS Natural Apophyseal Glides
NBQC Narrow Based Quad Cane
NCV Nerve conduction velocity
NIDDM Non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus
N/T Numbness and tingling or not tested
NF No Fault
NMR Neuromuscular re-education
NS No Show


OA Osteoarthritis
OTR Registered Occupational Therapist
OT Occupational Therapist/Therapy
OOB Out Of Bed
OKC Open Kinetic Chain
OCS Orthopedic Certified Specialist


PWB Partial Weight Bearing
Pfin Paraffin bath
PUW Pick Up Walker
PTA Physical Therapy Assistant/Physical Therapist Assistant
Pt. Patient
PT Physical Therapist
PIP Proximal Interphalangeal Joint
PROM Passive Range of Motion
Phono Phonophoresis
PCL Posterior Cruciate Ligament
p After
PCS Pediatric Certified Specialist
PF Plantar Flexion
PFS Patellofemoral Syndrome
PMHx Past Medical History
PNF Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation
PRO Pronation


QID Four Times A Day
Q Every
QC Quad Cane
QD Every Day
Quad Quadriceps
QS Quadriceps Set


RA Rheumatoid Arthritis
RC Rotator Cuff
ROM Range of Motion
Rot Rotation
RTW Return to work
RSD Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
r/o Rule out
RGO Reciprocating Gait Orthosis
Req/d. Required
Reps. Repetitions
Rehab. Rehabilitation
Rec’d Received
Re Recheck
Rx Treatment
RW Rolling Walker
RPT Registered Physical Therapist
RICE Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
RD Radial Deviation


STG short-term goals
SPT Student P.T.
SPC Single point cane
S/p Status post
SNAGS Sustained Natural Apophyseal Glides
S/L Sidelying
Sh Shoulder
SI, SIJ Sacroiliac joint
SCI Spinal cord injury
SW Standard walker
SBQC Small base quad cane
SUP Supination
STM Soft Tissue Mobilization
SOB Shortness of Breath
SLR Straight Leg Raise
SC Straight Cane
SBA Stand-By Assist
SB Side Bending
SAQ Short Arc Quad
S Without (Sans)
(S) Supervision


Total A Total assist
TB Theraband
TENS Transcutaneous Electrical Neuromuscular Stimulation
TFL Tensor Fascia Latae
THA Total Hip Arthroplasty
Ther Ex Therapeutic Exercise
TID Three Times a Day
TKA Total Knee Arthroplasty
TKR Total Knee Replacement
TLSO Thoracic Lumbar Sacral Orthosis
TM Treadmill
Trxn Traction
TTWB Toe Touch Weight Bearing
Tx Treatment
TDWB Touch-down weight bearing
THR Total Hip Replacement
TIA Transient ischemic attack
TLIF Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion
TMJ Temporomandibular joint


UB Upper body
UQ Upper Quadrant
US UltraSound
UE Upper Extremity
UD Ulnar Deviation
UBE Upper Body Ergometer


WNL Within Normal Limit
WCS Women’s Certified Specialist
w/ With
4WW Four-wheeled walker
WW Wheeled walker
WNL Within normal limits
WHO Wrist hand orthosis
WFL Within functional limits
WC (or w/c) Wheelchair
WBQC Wide-base quad cane
WBAT Weight bearing as tolerated

This journey through the labyrinth of physical therapy abbreviations has shed light on the essential tools that empower us as practitioners. From succinctly conveying complex information to enhancing the precision of our documentation, these abbreviations are the unsung heroes of our daily workflow. As physical therapists, we stand at the intersection of science and compassion, where every abbreviation represents not just a term but a patient's progress, a therapeutic approach, or a critical diagnostic detail. Our commitment to patient care is mirrored in our mastery of this language, allowing us to provide the highest quality of service.

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