You don’t need a crystal or a Magic 8-Ball to help predict the growth of the physical therapy industry (although if shaken, the Magic 8-Ball would surely say: “Outlook good!”). Physical therapists are—and will continue to be—in high demand. For PTs looking to carve out their piece of the market, there’s never been a better time to launch a specialized startup or single-provider clinic. And, as the PT market expands, so too will opportunities to provide niche physical therapy services.
Finding Your Niche (There’s a Little Something for Everyone…)
While “going niche” is nothing new in physical therapy, highly specialized practices that provide uncommon services such as treatment for performing artists, obesity management, animal therapy, and wilderness medicine are steadily gaining traction. Now is the moment—your moment—to hone in on an area that gets you motivated, excites you, and offers a unique space to practice your craft. Plus, therapy niches allow you to narrow your focus, build a strong and devoted client base, and tap into groundbreaking and innovative areas of PT.
The following 10 niche markets in physical therapy are not only viable private practice options, they’re becoming steadily more lucrative.
Looking to open your own PT practice? Check out our comprehensive guide to starting an outpatient clinic.
1. Performing Arts
As a PT, it’s easy to recognize the demands placed on performing artists. Highly active performers like dancers, gymnasts, stunt performers, and musical theater actors are always on the move—and they may seem like the most obvious beneficiaries of PT. But, production crew and musicians (who we’ll address in niche number two) also contend with physical demands that lead to musculoskeletal overuse and injury. (Those set pieces and cellos don’t haul themselves!)
In addition to treating the variety of acute conditions that can crop up during a performance, PTs operating within this niche can also provide imperative services such as evaluations of artists’ physical abilities and limitations, as well as the application of preventative strategies that can improve performers’ physical and physiological well-being.
2. Musician Therapy
While musician therapy can (and does) fall under the performing arts therapy niche, an increasing number of private practices focus specifically on treating musicians. Many musicians develop acute injuries or chronic conditions (mostly overuse-related) as a direct result of playing certain instruments for hours at a time—and they require skilled care from a PT.
A musician-focused PT has the knowledge and training to enable musicians to optimize how they play their instrument without compromising their performance. And, if you’re wondering how common musculoskeletal problems are among musicians, they may be more common than you think. According to a study, lifetime musculoskeletal complaints among professional musicians ranged from 62% to 93% and were higher among women, with neck and shoulder issues showing the most prevalence.
3. Obesity Management
Obesity has long been on the rise in the US, and the problem has only compounded with the execution of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. For example, one study of 7,753 survey participants recorded weight gain in 27.5% of the group.
Now, more than ever, PTs can provide a host of support for overweight and obese persons. From safely implementing exercise plans (including tolerance screening and testing) to activity modification, injury prevention, and overall wellness programs, PTs have prolific opportunities to assist with obesity management.
4. Animal Therapy
From treating canines and felines to fur babies of all kinds, animal physical therapy is a burgeoning market. Animal PTs are able to provide many of the same modalities to animals as they do for their human counterparts, including exercise rehabilitation, ultrasound therapy, aquatic therapy, neuromuscular stimulation, and much more.
Through their specialized care, animal PTs can address a range of conditions too—from arthritis and tendonitis to degenerative disc disease and hip dysplasia. And animal PTs can help with post-operative care, to boot.
5. Wilderness Medicine
While wilderness medicine has long been established as a specific subset of physical therapy—applying to any situation in which a patient needs care within a “wilderness setting”—it has recently gained some professional momentum.
Historically, PT involvement in wilderness medicine was largely relegated to military or humanitarian relief settings. Now, as backcountry recreation and athletic activities become more popular (due, in part, to COVID-19 social-distancing restrictions), PTs with dedicated wilderness training can provide unique and needed value. This could involve joining a search and rescue team, or becoming a wilderness first responder.
6. Women’s Health
If you’re a PT who’s passionate about women’s health—and pelvic physical therapy—this niche is for you. A recent study released by Fior Markets reported that the global women’s health rehabilitation market is projected to grow from USD $3.69 billion in 2020 to $6 billion by 2028. This exponential expansion has much to do with the wide range of PT services available to women. From osteoporosis treatment and post-mastectomy care to breast care and the steadily rising niche-within-a-niche of pregnancy and postpartum PT, the women’s health category for PTs is as varied as it is rewarding.
7. Teen Sports
US youth sports injuries are rampant. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 2.6 million children end up in the emergency room for sports-related injuries. To help keep teens safe on and off the field, PTs specializing in pediatric sports rehabilitation not only have the skills to treat many common injuries but to prevent them as well. PTs can also provide pre-sports health evaluations to help improve sports performance and detect detrimental musculoskeletal conditions or injuries.
8. Gyms and Health Clubs
In an era when it feels like a new gym or health club is always popping up on the corner, it makes sense that health and fitness facilities would seek to set themselves apart. Out of increased competition has come the integrative gym model, where gyms provide unique (yet covetable) experiences to their patrons, like in-house physical therapy. These integrated services act like an upsell for gym patrons who’re looking to enhance their performance, receive immediate treatment for an injury, and have access to a convenient place to undergo their physical therapy treatment.
9. Urgent Care PT
Similar to gyms and health clubs, urgent care facilities seem to crop up in nearly every neighborhood. And similarly, these in-and-out medical care hubs need ways to compete. Offering physical therapy at one of these facilities means that patients can receive a wider range of diagnosis and treatment options, as PTs can directly address acute musculoskeletal and neuromuscular injuries and conditions.
10. Oncology Rehabilitation and Management
While oncology rehabilitation in the form of physical therapy has largely been applied to care plans for breast and genitourinary cancers, emerging research demonstrates its use for several other types of cancer and cancer-related conditions and side effects. For example, PTs specializing in oncology physical therapy (which became a board-certified PT specialty in 2016) can address lymphedema, peripheral neuropathy, pain, and more.
Starting Your Own Niche Business
The list above is by no means exhaustive. As the PT industry expands and evolves, more niche opportunities will make their way to the market. In fact, PTs seeking to start their own specialized practice are likely to come up with their own groundbreaking ideas, paving the way for colleagues and future generations of skilled, specialized practitioners. To learn more about how to find your niche in PT, check out this article: Discovering and Marketing Your Physical Therapy Niche.
Did you start your own niche private practice? Are you considering a startup? We’d love to hear about it below in our comments section.