Therapeutic Exercise Vs. Therapeutic Activity
In physical therapy, therapeutic exercises (CPT code 97110) and therapeutic activities (CPT code 97530) are both rehabilitation methods practiced to treat a variety of injuries and illnesses. They are both individualized treatments and share common goals, to improve parameters such as strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, and functional movement.
It can be confusing to differentiate between the two treatment methods, as both measure the same parameters in 15-minute, one-on-one sessions between a physical therapist and patient. To help clear up the confusion, let’s consider what makes each unique.
What is a Therapeutic Exercise?
Therapeutic exercises can be described by the degree to which the patient exerts physical effort. They can be active, active-assisted, or passive movements. To distinguish each type from one another, let’s go over an example of each.
Walking on a treadmill is an example of an active exercise. This therapeutic exercise would be useful for a patient needing improvement in endurance and is active because the patient is not being assisted in his/her movements in any way.
An active-assisted exercise is one where a physical therapist manually assists the patient through the movement, such as a physical therapist assisting a patient in lifting a free weight. The patient is still exerting himself/herself physically to some degree, but the physical therapist is helping him/her through the motions.
As you may have guessed by now, passive therapeutic exercises are ones where the physical therapist takes the patient through the range of motions without the patient exerting any effort whatsoever. These exercises are used for stroke victims and patients who cannot move their limbs and help to prevent muscle stiffness and spasticity.
Passive therapeutic exercises don’t involve weights and are typically limited to slowly guiding a patient’s joints through their range of motions. When possible, it’s better to opt for active or active-assisted exercises.
What is a Therapeutic Activity?
Therapeutic activities also involve one-on-one, 15-minute sessions between a patient and a physical therapist. In contrast to therapeutic exercises, however, they always involve dynamic movements.
Additionally, whereas even active therapeutic exercises involve one parameter being measured at most (such as strength, flexibility, or endurance), therapeutic activities involve multiple. Instead of performing a single, specific, physical movement, the patient will be engaging in a functional task such as throwing a ball, pushing a cart, or even activities like cooking.
The fact that they are functional movements is a significant difference between therapeutic exercises and therapeutic activities: the latter are designed to model real-life movements, the former are merely supposed to help the patient make progress in a single parameter.
What are the Differences Between Therapeutic Exercises and Activities?
In differentiating between the two, it helps to think of therapeutic exercises as a path to therapeutic activities. A person recovering from a tennis injury to his/her elbow might begin physical therapy with therapeutic exercise in the form of active-assisted tricep extensions or even just passive, range of motion exercises.
These exercises are limited to a single parameter, flexibility, making it a therapeutic exercise (97110). As his/her flexibility improved, weight could be added. Now the movement is a therapeutic activity (97530), as a second parameter has been added, strength.
When a patient is expected to reach multiple outcomes by performing their therapeutic movements, they are engaging in an therapeutic activity. When only one outcome is expected, they are performing a therapeutic exercise.