You are unique, the only individual in the world who can be “you”. Even identical twins possess a few unique characteristics. So it is in the world of kinesiology and fitness; the same letter designation is not always indicative of the same title or role.

Many active individuals often find themselves in need of some form of physical therapy, either to rehab a torn muscle or following orthopedic surgery. I have often heard patients refer to the practitioner as their PT. Fair enough, right? However, many of my fitness clients refer to me as their PT, shortening the title of Personal trainer. Once again, fair enough…yet confusing at times.

Are You Aligned?

We are fortunate to have a hospital’s physical therapy satellite at our fitness center. The staff is extremely dedicated and bright, and very often is able to bring about full recovery for their patients, happily returning them to their previous workout style. There are some patients, though, who finish with Physical Therapy but still need some extra hands-on guidance. In cases such as these, our therapists often refer patients to one of our trainers. A trainer can be the safest and most appropriate professional that a physical therapist would trust to continue with the patient’s rehabilitation, knowing that he or she would pay close attention to corrective exercises while still pushing forward in terms of restoring mobility and strength.


Now, Making That Connection

Many personal trainers like to believe that, with a properly designed workout program, they are capable of fixing any corrective-exercise challenge that comes their way. As a professional industry, we would do well to recognize and acknowledge the limitations within our field, and know when something might be out of our scope of practice. That is Step 1 in safely servicing any client. Step 2 is communicating with the client’s medical professional(s)– be it cardiologist, rheumatologist, orthopedist or physical therapist – to coordinate a prudent plan of action. It is perfectly appropriate to ask your new client, during an assessment, if you may speak to his previous medical specialist, in an effort to develop the best plan for his training. Most clients will be truly appreciative, and most medical professionals will be impressed that you took this next step before working with the client.

What Do I Say?

If you are not already acquainted with the physical therapist, initiate contact with a phone call to the office (or an email, if that is what the client knows is preferable). Keep the conversation brief:

  • Introduce yourself and briefly state your credentials.
  • Provide the name of the patient who has recently become your client, and state that you have said individual’s permission to make this connection.
  • Depending upon the nature of the injury/surgery, you might inquire as to whether there are X-rays or other notes, and if so, would it be possible to send them to you.
  • If the PT would prefer to discuss in a face-to-face meeting, by all means clear your schedule and make the time. There may be details regarding the patient’s progress that the PT would prefer to share privately. Your willingness could help pave the way for future recommendations from the PT.

Since insurance companies are often limiting in what they will cover with regard to number of physical therapy visits, it is good to know that when you leave one PT office you can effortlessly merge with the other PT arena. Spread the word, and help strengthen and empower individuals of all ages!!!

Cathleen Kronemer

Cathleen Kronemer is an NFPT CEC writer and a member of the NFPT Certification Council Board. Cathleen is an AFAA-Certified Group Exercise Instructor, NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer, ACE-Certified Health Coach, former competitive bodybuilder and freelance writer. She is employed at the Jewish Community Center in St. Louis, MO. Cathleen has been involved in the fitness industry for over three decades. Feel free to contact her at She welcomes your feedback and your comments!