Physical Therapy Abbreviations Commonly Used by PTs

physical therapist working on patient's knee

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Physical therapists often use medical abbreviations in their note writing, and sometimes as a shorthand when speaking. To laypeople and those who aren't medical professionals, these abbreviations and shorthand annotations can often be confusing.

Below is a list of commonly used physical therapy abbreviations. While the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) does not have a standard list of physical therapy abbreviations, you may also see various abbreviations on a prescription for physical therapy from your doctor.

Learning these abbreviations and what they mean can help you determine what sort of techniques your PT may be using to help you fully recover.

Types of Abbreviations

Abbreviations are used for many reasons in physical therapy:

  • Weight-bearing abbreviations: When working with weight-bearing restrictions, you will likely need to walk with an assistive device like a cane, crutches, or a walker. Your physical therapist can show you how to use your assistive device and make sure it is sized correctly for you.
  • Assistive device abbreviations: These abbreviations are used for various types of devices to help you walk and move about. Crutches and canes are considered assistive devices.
  • Range of motion abbreviations: Range of motion refers to moving a joint or body part in its full available range. Sometimes, your doctor of PT will use abbreviations when referring to range of motion.
  • Therapeutic modalities abbreviations: These treatments are used to help improve circulation, muscle contractions, and inflammation.
  • Exercise equipment abbreviations: Your physical therapist may use a variety of abbreviations in their clinic. For example, some McKenzie-trained physical therapists use the term REIL to indicate the press-up exercise. (REIL stands for repeated extension in lying.) 

If you have access to your physical therapy and rehab notes and see something you do not understand, just ask your physical therapist. If your therapist uses a term or abbreviation you don't understand when talking to you, ask for an explanation.

Physical Therapy Abbreviations (A-Z)

Use this resource to review the most common abbreviations in physical therapy and their meanings:

#

  • 50%WB: 50 percent weight bearing

B

  • B: Bilateral
  • BID: Twice a day
  • BKA: Below knee amputation

C

  • ER: External rotation
  • Estim or ES: Electrical stimulation
  • EV: Eversion (of the ankle)
  • Ex: Exercise
  • EXT: Extension (or a slash mark is used to signify extension)

F

  • FIM score: Functional independence level
  • FLEX: Flexion (or simply a check mark is used to signify flexion)
  • FWB: Full weight bearing
  • Fx: Fracture

  • GHJ: Glenohumeral Joint

  • H/o: History of
  • HEP: Home exercise program
  • HOB: Head of bed
  • Horiz ABD: Horizontal abduction
  • Horiz ADD: Horizontal adduction
  • HP: Hot packs
  • HVGS: High voltage galvanic stimulation
  • Hx: History

I

K

  • KAFO: Knee ankle foot orthosis

L

  • LAQ: Long arc quad
  • LBQC: Large base quad cane (also known as a wide base quad cane—WBQC)
  • LCL: Lateral collateral ligament
  • LE: Lower extremity
  • LOA: Level of assist
  • LP: Lumbar puncture acutely
  • LTG: Long term goals

M

N

O

  • OKC: Open kinetic chain
  • OOB: Out of bed

P

Q

  • Q: Every
  • QC: Quad cane
  • QD: Every day
  • QID: Four times a day

R

S

  • S: Without (sans)
  • SAQ: Short arc quad
  • SB: Side bending
  • SBA: Stand by assist
  • SBQC: Small base quad cane (also known as a narrow base quad cane—NBQC)
  • SC: Straight cane
  • SLR: Straight leg raise
  • STM: Soft tissue mobilization
  • SUP: Supination
  • SW: Standard walker

T

U

W

  • W/c: Wheelchair
  • WBAT: Weight bearing as tolerated
  • WC: Wheelchair
  • WFL: Within functional limit
  • WNL: Within normal limits
  • WW: Wheeled walker

A Word From Verywell

Your physical therapist not only provides therapy but also wants to help educate you so you can take an active role in your rehabilitation. Understanding the basics of PT-related abbreviations can help you gain a fuller understanding of your rehab. As always, if you have any questions about your therapy, speak with your PT.

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