Academy of Orthopaedic Physical Therapy

American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)

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Residency Curriculum: ISC 16.1, Pharmacology


This Independent Study Course series will take a look at all aspects of pharmacology as they relate to clinical decision making in the physical therapy management of a patient. This will include important components of pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic, and pharmacotherapeutic principles. The individual monographs will address issues specific to certain populations such as with the pediatric and geriatric patient, the patient with chronic pain, the athlete, and those utilizing anabolic steroids, alcohol, and doping. During this time when more and more physical therapists are involved with direct access and autonomous practice, it becomes critical that each practitioner be knowledgeable about pharmacology. The necessary content knowledge and process skills of physical therapists’ with respect to pharmacology will be enhanced with the information provided in this course.


  1. Understand the general principles of pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamic, and pharmacotherapeutic principles as they relate to clinical decision-making and clinical outcomes in the physical therapy management of a patient.
  2. Be able to identify the important components of pharmacotherapeutic principles as they relate to all populations, including the young, the elderly, and the athlete, and their impact on the physical therapy management of a patient.
  3. Gain an understanding of the epidemiological factors of prescription and over-the-counter medication usage along with adverse reactions or side effects in various populations.
  4. Gain an understanding of compliance and motivation issues associated with drug usage in various populations.
  5. Discuss the normal schedule for immunizations for children and possible adverse side effects as well as the scheduling implications for children with disabilities.
  6. Describe the most common metabolic disorders that might be seen by physical therapists in a pediatric, geriatric, or athletic setting and discuss the special dietary and pharmacological treatments for each.
  7. Discuss the medical and pharmacological management and clinical implications of treatment for gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), otitis media, and osteomyelitis in children.
  8. Gain an understanding of cardiovascular, neuromusculoskeletal, psychological, gastrointestinal, metabolic, incontinence, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and dementia pharmacological regimens for the elderly.
  9. Gain an understanding of Phytomedicines (herbs) and their pharmacologically active component and effects.
  10. Discuss the following with respect to anabolic steroids, alcohol, and various ergogenic aids: prevalence, mechanisms of actions, effects on performance, side effects, testing procedures, regulations relating to use, ethical and legal considerations as related to physical therapy practice and patients using or suspected of using the agents discussed.
  11. Describe the clinical relevance and importance and the physiological rationale for the use of the following medication in the treatment and management of acute and/or chronic pain: anti-inflammatories; muscle relaxants; and psychotropic, neuroleptic, and pain medications.

Topics and Authors:​

  • Pharmacology for the Pediatric Population
    • Barbara Connolly, PT, EdD, FAPTA
  • Physical Therapy, Pain, and Pharmacology
    • Tom Watson, DPT, PT, MEd, DAAPM
  • Pharmacology for the Geriatric Population
    • Jennifer M. Bottomley, PT, MS, PhD
  • Principles of Pharmacotherapeutics
    • Suzanne L. Tinsley, PT, PhD
  • Ergogenic Versus Performance Enhancing Substances
    • Peter Huijbregts, PT, MSc, MHSc, DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT, FCAMT and Ellen Pong, BA, MOT, DPT
  • Sport and Exercise Pharmacology
    • Ross E. Biederman

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