Using math in physical therapy (5 examples)

physical therapy uses math on many occasions regarding technological advancement, including the last machines physical therapies use today. But mathematics is still interesting and important.

So in this article, we’re going to discover 5 examples of math application in physical therapy, 2 simple methods, and 3 methods that require taking attention to understand the principle.

In addition, we will discover what math subject you should prepare for before majoring in physical therapy. so keep reading if you want to know more details.

1 – calculating percentage heart rate

The first simple application of math equations in physical therapy is the famous equation used to calculate the maximum heart rate. As a result, to determine how much the heart can beat at its maximum power.

 physical therapists can determine the limit of humans’ heartbeats which is so useful especially for athletes to help them design their training programs. so the equation is:

Max Heart Rate (HRmax))

 HRmax(bpm) = 220 – Age (years)

So when a person makes an extensive effort his heart rate raise until reaching this value which is  HRmax(bpm).  That’s being said for example running at the maximum power you have.

So without making this test or using any septic device to measure this value, using this equaiton is enough to determine your maximum heart rate.

it is expected that if you are at the age of 25 your maximum rate will be calculated by this equation below.

 HRmax(bpm) = 220 – Age (years)= 220 – 25= 195bpm

So in this case, if you are 25 years old, your maximum heartbeat will be 195  beats per minute.  This is one of the simple equations adopted by physical therapists,  especially in sports domain.

2 – Target Heart Rate (THR)

Target heart rate is the technique physical therapists use to determine the heart rate of patients. to determine the maximum and minimum capacity depending on each one which strongly relates to the age.

 For instance, let’s just say that this Physical Therapy treatment requires staying between 60 and 70% of the maximum heart rate.  So in this case physical therapists make this simple equation to determine which heart rate a patient or even an athlete should stay on.

 so in this case and use this simple equation

THR = %intensity * HR

 HR is the heart rate average that we explained in the previous example,  so as we said in the previous example the maximum heart rate for a 25-year-old person is 195 Beats minutes.

 So for instance,  if an athlete wants to burn fat, means he must stay on the average between 70% to 80% of his effort intensity. But how we’re going to know that?

we’re going to know by calcluation o f THRmax  and THRmin 

THRmax. = 0.80 * 195=  136

THRmin  =  0.70 * 195=  156

So in this case physical therapy gives the instruction for an athlete or patient to stay in the range between 136 and 156  beats per minute While exercising.

That is to say, he doesn’t have to slow down his rhythm to not get under 136 and not be offensive overcoming 156 beats.

3 – weber french law and steven french law

weber french law and steven french law are complicated mathematics subject that is hard to explain in written words. So in this case, we decided to let you this video below to follow in which you would find explain examples to understand well Weber French law and Stephen French law in physical therapy.

4 – signal detection theory

signal dicison is A science behind the term meaning the ability to choose or make a decision under in uncertainty are not exatitud. Is a little bit confusing topic so for this case we recommend to watch this video below.

you will find in this link a part 2.

5 – random walks

A random walk is a mathematical method used to determine the random movement of the system, It’s used in many different domains like biological computer science engineering fields.

This subject is a lot and probability,  for this reason, we found a good explainable video where you’re going to find details on what are random walks are about.

which math do physical therapists study?

physical therapists study a lot of mathematics subjects, especially the math subject that comes with a physical therapy curriculum subject that you will study including:

  • Anatomy 
  • Physiology 
  • Biology 1 
  • Biology 2
  • General Chemistry 1 
  • General Chemistry 2
  • General Physics 1
  • General Physics 2 
  • Psychology
  • Statistics

So to study these subjects you will need to study theses following math subjects

  • calculus
  • algebra
  • statistics
  • probability

Don‘t have to worry calculus is not always demanded that depends on the school.

But even if you enrolled in a physical therapy school that requires calculus, you won’t be studying more than calculus 1 which is digestible.

 But the other subjects like statistics, algebra, and probabilities are important to have good knowledge about.

So we recommend taking a course including theses following algebra and precalculus subjects to be sure of yourself before going to physical therapy school.

  • Matrices
  • statistics
  • Functions
  • Trigonometry
  • Conic Sections
  • Polar Coordinates and Graphs
  • Vectors
  • Parametric Equations
  • Sequences and Series
  • Limits
  • Differentiation


physical therapy is one of the stem subjects that require to have acceptable basics in math, especially algebra and statistics, and probability. So the best thing students should do is take a precalculus class course, as good preparation for this major.

As a result, to prevent a lot of problems the at college. if you are interested to take precalculus classes you could a full course at this link.

you could also read this related article: AP bio vs Ap chemistry: which one is the best?


Yassin ajanif is a physics graduate and electromechanical engineer width more than 5 years in the field. My goal and my team are to share our experience to help you succeed in your career as a stem major. we talk about all tips, problems, and struggle STEM students face in their career and how to overcome them.