The New Non-Niche


Physical therapists as health care professionals.

By Scott C. Spradling, certified administrator, and Carrie M. Hall, PT, MHS

Imagine thinking so far outside the box that you end up coming full circle and finding yourself smack in the middle of that same box. That idea, that hook, that niche that you have been trying to come up with—was right there all along: physical therapy, the new niche that is really a non-niche.

Plain and simple, a clinic that provides patient-centered focus with highly skilled practitioners who spend one-on-one time with patients and uses a lifespan primary care practitioner concept is the “non-niche.”

Niche is defined as “a place, employment, status, or activity for which a person or thing is best fitted.”1 By definition, the best niche for a physical therapist is not a specialty within the profession, it is the profession.

Through a generation of education, research, and clinical application, the profession has come to understand and promote the existence of the movement system as “the foundational scientific construct for describing, defining, and testing examination and intervention strategies focused on optimizing human movement.”2 The movement system is a physiological system that functions to produce motion of the body as a whole or of its component parts; the functional interaction of structures that contribute to the act of moving.3 This fundamental principle is the core of American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA’s) vision statement, which was adopted by APTA’s House of Delegates in 2013, and states: “Transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.”4

We should not and can no longer afford to think of ourselves as a service-based profession. We are health care professionals who evaluate, diagnose, treat, and prescribe for injuries and impairments that affect or restrict human movement.

Instead of devoting a practice to a distinct specialty, why not formulate a group of experts in various domains to provide a comprehensive facility to suit most patients’ needs? Provide the right care, do it well, empower your patients, and manage their movement system throughout their lifespan. That is the new niche.


1. Niche Definition. (n.d.). Website Accessed 2015.

2. Shirley A. Sahrmann. “The Human Movement System: Our Professional Identity.” Phys Ther. 2014; 94:1034-1042.

3. Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000.

4. American Physical Therapy Association. Vision statement for the physical therapy profession. Website Updated 2013. Accessed June 2015.

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