What’s the Difference? Physiotherapy Vs. Physical Therapy

Ever heard of physiotherapy? If not, you’re not alone! In fact, about 80 percent of the general public does not know what the term physiotherapy means. So, what is physiotherapy? How does it differ from physical therapy? Are there really any differences? Keep reading to learn more about physiotherapy vs. physical therapy.

Physiotherapy Vs. Physical Therapy

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Physiotherapy Vs. Physical Therapy: Is there A Difference?

People who are researching Physiotherapy Vs. Physical Therapy might expect that these two careers are entirely unique from one another. However, that is not the case. In fact, these two terms are occasionally used synonymously! Some healthcare professionals believe that a physiotherapist and physical therapist are two very similar occupations. While they can be used synonymously, some still see small differences, especially on an international scale.

Consequently, other medical professionals disagree with this statement and argue that a physiotherapist and physical therapist are two slightly different careers, sparking debate amongst the healthcare field.

Why is this? Well, the job description of a physiotherapist is extremely similar to a physical therapist. However, in certain foreign countries such as Ireland and Australia, the term physiotherapist is much more commonly used. Additionally, in countries such as Ireland and Australia a “physical therapist” is a lower career-ranking job because it requires less schooling. Therefore, the term physiotherapist and physical therapist can be used synonymously in the U.S., but it may vary in foreign countries.

Physiotherapy Vs. Physical Therapy

While some medical professionals use the term physiotherapy and physical therapy synonymously, others claim that physiotherapy incorporates small unique differences such as more hands-on manual therapy. Some believe that physical therapy incorporates more exercise-based health approaches.

Like a physical therapist, a physiotherapist works on the treatment of injury, disease, and disorders through the use of physical methods. These physical methods include exercise, massages, movement and manipulation of the trouble area, and other various treatments such as medication and surgery.

There are three main types of physiotherapy: musculoskeletal, neurological, and cardio-thoracic. Musculoskeletal physiotherapy can be used to treat injuries such as sprains, back pain, muscle strains, arthritis, and posture problems.  Physical therapists also use this form of treatment. Neurological physiotherapy helps heal problems within the nervous system. These disorders can include stroke, spinal cord injuries, and Parkinson’s disease. And last, cardio-thoracic physiotherapy helps patients work through problems with asthma, bronchitis, and other cardio-respiratory related health problems.

Types of Therapies Used

There are also numerous different therapy approaches that physiotherapist use. The three most common types of treatment therapies include manual therapies, exercise programs, and electrotherapy techniques. Manual therapy may include treating the problem area through joint manipulation, mobilization, resistance training, and stretching. Physiotherapists also utilize exercise therapies such as muscle training, strength training, and cardiovascular training. Both manual therapies and exercise programs are solutions that physical therapists also utilize. However, unlike most physical therapists, physiotherapists will more commonly use electrotherapy treatment techniques such as TENS. (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) If you are contemplating becoming a physiotherapist vs. a physical therapist, ask yourself what type of therapy approaches do you best envision yourself working with?

Workplace Environment

One small final difference between a physiotherapist and a physical therapist is the workplace environment. The average workplace environment may vary. It is commonly noted that physiotherapist’s work in hospital settings helping to treat patients with various conditions. Physical therapists, however, more commonly work in private practices with a stronger client to therapist relationship. If you are considering becoming a physiotherapist or physical therapist, ask yourself what type of environment do you best envision yourself working in?

There you have it! While the differences are minuscule, knowing the slight dissimilarities of each profession may help you make your final career-path decision! Are you a physiotherapist or physical therapist? Comment your thoughts below!

Author: Allied Travel Careers

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  1. This article is nonsense. Physio and PT are the same profession. In the US, the person is called a physical therapist. Outside of the US, (s)he is called a physiotherapist

  2. As a patient, I’ve had different experiences with regard to treatments around nerve compression and fascia bundling.

    My physical therapist mostly worked on stabilization, strengthening, and endurance using the rice method — which probably would have been fine if I didn’t have a much more nuanced medical issue.

    I found physiotherapy more appropriate for helping me manage chronic nerve pain

  3. They are different. I’m a physiotherapist at a chiropractor office and we do completely different work in injuries than physical therapists. I will see patients within days off an injury. Physical therapists wait to to 6-8 weeks before beginning any work.

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