Units of the PSP Certification Program™


Unit 1 – Fundamentals of Primary Spine Care


Unit 2 – The Lumbar Spine


Unit 3 – The Cervical Spine


Unit 4 – Clinical Management and Final Proficiency Exam


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Unit One – Fundamentals of Primary Spine Care

This is the first course offering in the Primary Spine Practitioner Program which is 4-part course series that takes an in-depth look at the delivery of Healthcare to patients with Spinal Related Disorders. This initial course will define and explore the fundamental principles of primary spine care that are essential for effective patient management and efficient clinical decision making in these situations. These fundamental principles include:

  • The Changing Landscape of Healthcare for Spinal Related Disorders
  • Evidenced-Based Practice Principles
  • Modern Pain Science and the BioPsychoSocial Model
  • Primary Spine Practitioner Attitudes and Beliefs
  • Communication Skills
  • Classification of Spinal Related Disorders
  • Triage and Diagnosing Spinal Related Disorders Utilizing a BioPyschoSocial Approach
  • Clinical Management of Spinal Related Disorders Utilizing Evidenced-Based and BioPsychoSocial Principles

Course Objectives:

  1. Understand the present state of health care in general and spine care in particular, with an appreciation for patient centered care, relationship centered care and value-based care.
  2. Define and discuss the concepts of health economics such as value, quality, episode costs and shared savings model.
  3. Enumerate and explain the drivers of spine care costs and current strategies to improve the value of spine care.
  4. Understand best practice principles that should be utilized in the management of primary care for spine patients.
  5. Apply and interpret risk measures (e.g., STarT Back) and outcome assessments (e.g., Oswestry, NDI).
  6. Describe pain generators in spine patients based on current scientific literature and clinical practice guidelines.
  7. Describe psychological perpetuating factors in spine patients based on current scientific literature and clinical practice guidelines.
  8. Recognize the signs/symptoms of red flags for potential serious pathology.
  9. Differentiate musculoskeletal conditions from non-musculoskeletal conditions.
  10. Understand the importance of language and communication in patient interaction and ability to apply a communication style that is empowering and that promotes self-efficacy.
  11. Describe and summarize relationship-centered care concepts.
  12. Demonstrate appropriate patient communication for patient self-efficacy.
  13. Understand the need for appropriate inter-professional communication with others involved in case management and clinical decision-making.
  14. Formulate clinical questions, retrieve and appraise case focused clinical evidence.
  15. Describe the content, strengths and limitations of the most current clinical guidelines for spine related disorders.
  16. Develop critical thinking skills that are informed by evidenced-based, best practice principles.

Online Modules

Section One: The Changing Landscape of Healthcare for Spinal Related Disorders

Required Online Modules:
  • Healthcare Trends
  • Role of the PSP
  • Payment Models

Section Two: Evidenced Based Practice Principles

Recommended Online Modules:
  • Principles of Outcome Measures
  • Clinical Applications of Outcome Measures

Section Three: PSP Attitudes and Beliefs

  • Survey of PSPs

Section Four: Modern Pain Science and the BioPsychoSocial Model

Required Online Modules:
  • Review of Pain Neuroscience
  • Educating Patients regarding Pain Neurosciences
  • Pain Physiology
Recommended Online Module:
  • TEDxAdelaide - Lorimer Moseley - Why Things Hurt

Section Five: Communication Skills

Required Online Modules:
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI) Background & Spirit
  • MI Skills & Strategies
  • MI Processes
  • General Communication Skills: Part I
  • General Communication Skills: Part II
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Pain
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for Pain
  • Mindfulness-Based Interventions

Section Six: Classification of Spinal Related Disorders

Required Online Modules:
  • Classification Principles: Part I (Overview)
  • Classification Principles: Part II (Applied Principles)

Section Seven: Triage and Diagnosis of Spinal Related Disorders with the Biopsychosocial Model

Required Viewing:
  • First Contact Practitioner Case Scenarios
Recommended Online Modules:
  • “Flags” Concepts
  • Imaging Decisions in Spine Care
  • General Spine Imaging: Part 1
  • General Spine Imaging: Part 2
  • Congenital Spine Disorders
Optional Online Modules:
  • Spondyloarthropathy
  • Spine Neoplasms
  • Spine Trauma: Stability and Classification
  • Spine Trauma: Findings

Section Eight: Clinical Management of Spinal Related Disorders within the Biopsychosocial Model utilizing Evidenced Based Principles

Required Viewings and Online Modules:
  • APTA Orthopedic Section Low Back Pain Clinical Practice Guidelines
  • APTA Orthopedic Section Neck Pain Clinical Practice Guidelines
  • VA Hospital Clinical Practice Guidelines Document
  • Anatomy of Clinical Decision-Making
Recommended Online Module:
  • Cyriax Principles for the Spine

Unit One Live Course: Agenda and Schedule

Friday - Day One (3:00-8:45pm)

3:00-5:30pm
  • Section One: The Changing Landscape of Healthcare for Spinal Related Disorders: “The Need for Change” (Presenters: Don Murphy DC; Joel Stevens DC)
  • Section Two: Evidenced Based Practice Principles (Presenters: Michael Schneider DC; Joel Stevens DC)
5:30-6:00pm
  • Break
6:00-8:30pm
  • Section Three: Modern Pain Science and the BioPsychoSocial Model (Presenters: Michael Schneider DC; Carol Greco PhD; Amy Shanahan)
  • Section Four: PSP Attitudes and Beliefs (Presenters: Michael Schneider DC; Carol Greco PhD; Amy Shanahan)
8:30-8:45pm
  • Final Questions and Adjourn

Saturday - Day Two (8:00am-5:30pm)

8:00am-12:00pm
  • Section Five: Communication Skills (Presenters: Michael Schneider DC; Carol Greco PhD; Amy Shanahan)
12:00-1:00pm
  • Lunch Break
1:00-3:00pm
  • Section Five (Continued): Communication Skills (Presenters: Michael Schneider DC; Carol Greco PhD; Amy Shanahan)
3:00-3:20pm
  • Break
3:20-5:20pm
  • Section Six: Classification of Spinal Related Disorders (Presenter: Michael Timko PT)
  • Section Seven: Triage and Diagnosing Spinal Related Disorders Utilizing a BioPyschoSocial Approach
    • Case Based Applications/Small Group Assignments (Moderator: Michael Timko PT; Panel/Discussion)
5:20-5:30pm
  • Final Questions and Adjourn

Sunday - Day Three (8:00am-1:15pm)

8:00-10:00am
  • Section Seven: Triage and Diagnosing Spinal Related Disorders Utilizing a BioPyschoSocial Approach
    • Case Based Applications/Small Group Assignments (Moderator: Michael Timko PT; Panel/Discussion)
10:00-10:20am
  • Break
10:20-11:50am
  • Section Eight: Clinical Management of Spinal Related Disorders Utilizing Evidenced-Based and BioPsychoSocial Principles (Presenter: Michael Timko, PT)
11:50am-12:00pm
  • Final Questions and Adjourn
12:15-1:15pm
  • Unit One Written Exam

*topics are subject to changed at the discretion of instructors

Updated | 04.27.2020

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Questions regarding the program:

Michael Timko, PT, MS
Fellow American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy
Certified Primary Spine Practitioner (PSP)
he/him

Department of Physical Therapy
University of Pittsburgh
Bridgeside Point 1
100 Technology Drive Suite 228
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
P: (412) 383-4509
  mtimko@pitt.edu

Questions regarding program registration:

Clarice Rutledge
Post-Professional Education Administrator
ADaPT Administrator
she/her

Department of Physical Therapy
University of Pittsburgh
Bridgeside Point 1
100 Technology Drive Suite 210
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
P: (412) 383-4509



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