Physical therapists and physical therapist assistants in the United States are licensed and regulated in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. The jurisdictional (or legal) scope of practice for physical therapists is determined by each state or territory. Physical therapists and physical therapist assistants are governed by the physical therapy licensure law (practice act) in the state in which they practice, along with any rules, regulations, positions, or interpretations adopted by the state licensure board, or other applicable administrative regulations from a state agency such as the department of health. A state's physical therapy licensure law delineates the legal parameter that a physical therapist must operate under when providing services, outlining what a physical therapist (PT) may or may not lawfully perform. What may be considered to be part of the legal scope of PT practice in one state, may not be considered part of the legal scope in another.
When a state's practice act is silent on an issue or intervention, the determination of what constitutes practice "beyond the scope" of physical therapy is predominantly the responsibility of licensing board members. Scope of practice changes as contemporary practice evolves, and state regulatory boards need the latitude to determine the appropriateness of physical therapist interventions as they relate to both established and evolving scope of practice.
The following links are to documents and resources related the jurisdictional (legal) scope of practice for physical therapists. The legal scope of practice is determined on a state by state basis, and is outlined by each states’ physical therapy licensure law (practice act), licensure board regulations & policies, and legal interpretations.