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What Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides Do

Both physical therapist assistants and physical therapist aides work under the direction of physical therapists. They help patients who are recovering from injuries, illnesses, and surgery regain movement and manage pain. Physical therapist assistants are involved in the direct care of patients. Physical therapist aides often do tasks that are indirectly related to patient care, such as cleaning and setting up the treatment area, moving patients, and clerical tasks.


Physical therapist assistants typically do the following:

Physical therapist aides typically do the following:

Physical therapist assistants help physical therapists provide care to patients. Under the direction and supervision of physical therapists, they give therapy through exercise; therapeutic methods, such as electrical stimulation, mechanical traction, and ultrasound; massage; and gait and balance training. Physical therapist assistants record patients’ responses to treatment and report the results of each treatment to the physical therapist.

Physical therapist aides help make therapy sessions productive, under the direct supervision of a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant. They usually are responsible for keeping the treatment area clean and organized and for preparing for each patient's therapy. They also help patients who need assistance moving to or from a treatment area.

In states where physical therapist assistants must be licensed, aides are not licensed and so cannot do tasks involving direct patient care. The duties of aides include some clerical tasks, such as ordering depleted supplies and filling out insurance forms and other paperwork.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition