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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What is a Primary Spine Practitioner (PSP)?

Spine care in the US has been mired in a crisis of rapidly rising costs with rapidly declining outcomes for patients. Recent research has found that the spine care that most patients receive is inefficient, ineffective and extremely expensive. There is an urgent need for innovative solutions to this crisis. One such solution is the implementation of primary spine care - defined as first-line management, case coordination and follow-up of patients with any spine related disorder (SRD), under the direction of a certified Primary Spine Practitioner (PSP).

The PSP functions as primary-contact provider for patients with SRDs. This involves taking responsibility for managing most patients without the need for special tests or specialist referrals. It also involves identifying the minority of patients who do require further diagnostic evaluations (X-ray, MRI, CT, EMG) or specialized interventions (injections, surgery). Further, the PSP serves as inter-professional care coordinator, referring patients for the appropriate test or specialty service, and following up after these referrals to continually guide the patient toward resolution of the SRD. To perform this role, the PSP requires a very specific and refined skill set.

PSPs are ideally suited for managing patients in the primary care setting or functioning as the front-line practitioner in an interdisciplinary spine program, managing most patients without the need for referral and coordinating the care of those who require other services. However, primary spine care can also be provided in the private practice setting. The PSP maximizes efficiency by ensuring that specialists and surgeons only see patients who are most appropriate for their skill set. This also maximizes clinical outcome at minimal cost by ensuring that effective conservative management always remains at the front line and that patients have a consistent “go-to” professional who can monitor and facilitate their progress towards recovery.



Why should you become a certified PSP?

The PSP Certification Program™ will train and certify qualified physical therapists and chiropractors to be responsible for the front-line diagnosis, management and care coordination of patients with SRDs. The PSP will be positioned to achieve the goals of the Triple Aim of Healthcare: improved patient health, improved patient experience, and decreased per capita costs.

Healthcare reform is moving away from volume-based care, and in the direction of value-based care. To achieve this goal and the Triple Aim, health care services will be redesigned from a traditional fee-for-service model to a model based on value. The care provided must be accessible, practical and sustainable. The PSP will bring greater value to the care of patients with SRDs. PSPs will be aligned with developing models of health care such as the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) and the Accountable Care Organization (ACO). The PSP will possess a unique skill set in providing value-based healthcare for patients with spine related disorders.

If you want to thrive…not just survive…in the spine care marketplace, then you will need to broaden your skill set to be qualified to work within this team-based model of healthcare. The purpose of this certification program is to position a select group of physical therapists and chiropractors to fulfill this emerging role of the Primary Spine Practitioner in the healthcare system.


What are some advantages of PSP Certification?

  • Increase recognition as a spine specialist by health plans and public
  • Increase diagnostic reasoning knowledge
  • Increase skills in complete case management
  • Increase knowledge of rehabilitation exercises and protocols
  • Increase ability to track clinical outcomes
  • Increase ability to work within a team-based approach to case management


Updated | 7.12.2022

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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)

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

Questions regarding program registration:

Clarice Rutledge
Post-Professional Education Administrator
ADaPT Administrator

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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