SCIRehab project series: The physical therapy taxonomy

Audrey Natale, Sally Taylor, Jacqueline LaBarbera, Liron Bensimon, Shari McDowell, Sherry L. Mumma, Deborah Backus, Jeanne M. Zanca, Julie Gassaway*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Background/Objective: Outcomes research is in need of a classification system of physical therapy (PT) interventions for acute traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) rehabilitation in the United States. The objective of this study was to describe a taxonomy (system to categorize and classify interventions) to examine the effects of PT interventions on rehabilitation outcomes. Methods: The SCIRehab study uses the rigorous observational practice-based evidence methodology to examine current treatment processes without changing existing practice. PT clinicians and researchers from 6 centers developed a taxonomy to describe details of each PT session. Results: The PT taxonomy consists of 19 treatment activities (eg, bed mobility, transfers, wheelchair mobility, strengthening and stretching exercises) and supplementary information to describe the associated therapeutic interventions. Details that focus on patient assistance needs and family involvement are included as additional descriptors to help to describe and justify PT activity selection. Time spent on each activity is used as the measure of intensity. Conclusion: The detailed PT taxonomy documentation process, which offers efficiency in data collection, is being used for all PT sessions with 1,500 patients with acute traumatic SCI at the 6 participating centers. It might be the first attempt to document the many details of the PT rehabilitation process for patients with SCI in the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)270-282
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Spinal Cord Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2009


  • Physical therapy
  • Practice-based evidence
  • Rehabilitation, physical
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Taxonomy
  • Wheelchair

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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