Physiotherapy vs Athletic Therapy – The Key Differences

When looking at physiotherapy vs athletic therapy, there is some overlap in what they treat and the methods they use. But there are also major differences between the two.

When you know these differences, you’ll be more readily able to obtain a treatment plan that will best address your specific needs.

And, that brings us to the ‘athletic therapy vs physiotherapy’ question – which one is right for you?
Read on to learn about the biggest difference between athletic therapy and physiotherapy treatment.


The Biggest Differences Between Athletic Therapy and Physiotherapy Treatment


The main difference between athletic therapy vs physiotherapy has to do with the scope of practice.
In other words, both will address a variety of the same ailments, including: 

  • Musculoskeletal injury recovery and prevention
  • Muscle/joint pain 
  • Limited mobility

To name just a few.

But where athletic therapists are focused exclusively on musculoskeletal disorders, physical therapists, on the other hand, are skilled at treating musculoskeletal disorders in addition to cardiovascular health issues and even neurological impairments that can affect movement.

There’s also – as the name implies – a deeper connection between athletic therapists and sports medicine. Athletic therapists are known to specialize in rehabilitation techniques tailored for athletes and sports-related injuries.

You may even hear athletic therapists referred to as sports therapists from time to time. They’ll typically use more tapes and wraps in their treatment plan to account for a potentially more active patient.

That doesn’t mean that athletic therapists only cater to athletes, of course, as many non-athlete patients have benefited from athletic therapy. 

Athletic Therapy vs Physiotherapy – Treatment Methods

When it comes to evaluating which medical provider is best suited to your needs, know that athletic therapy vs physiotherapy treatments aren’t all that different, at times. Both can include: 

  • Manual therapy
  • Exercises to restore range of motion
  • Exercises to restore mobility 
  • Therapies to reduce pain in joints and muscles

So both athletic therapy and physiotherapy involve a lot of hands-on treatment that will help patients recover faster from their injuries or ailments.

And, while both physiotherapists and athletic therapists will work to restore strength, athletic therapists may specialize in working with patients through physical activities that are centered on strength-building and recovery, especially if the medical care is being given in the context of a sports team environment, for example.

The athletic therapy vs physiotherapy specialization difference is also reflected in their schooling.

While physical therapy accreditation requires a two-year master’s degree in Canada on top of a four-year bachelor’s, athletic therapy only requires a four-year bachelor’s degree.

But again, both therapies are focused on the prevention of injury and musculoskeletal injury recovery.

Physiotherapy vs Athletic Therapy – Getting the Right Treatment for You

When evaluating whether you would be better served by athletic therapy vs physiotherapy (or both), you can consult with a medical provider who can give you more insight into your specific needs and which health care professionals are best suited to help.

Moreover, the physiotherapy vs athletic therapy question is not one that will too often come up during your care, as you will typically be referred to a physiotherapist for many of your ailments, as they have a closer tie to the school of medicine.

Physiotherapists offer a variety of techniques that can address many of your musculoskeletal needs, including:

  • Sports injury or general injuries
  • Knee pain
  • Tissue injuries
  • Shoulder pain
  • Back pain
  • Joint pain
  • Ankle sprains
  • Restoring mobility in joints
  • Strengthening muscles

It’s also worth noting that you don’t require a referral from a doctor to see one or the other, so feel free to seek a physiotherapist or athletic therapist out and get an assessment if you feel that they might be able to help.

Receive Treatment From a Top Physiotherapy Clinic

If you’re looking to reduce pain, restore motion, and otherwise get back to feeling like your old self again, then you can almost certainly benefit from physiotherapy.

The professionals at White Pine Health will be able to help with your physiotherapy care requirements, as well as identify which of the two therapies (athletic therapy vs physiotherapy) is more appropriate for your individual needs.

We provide a full range of physiotherapy and rehabilitation services in the Brampton area and throughout the GTA. We’ll never cut corners on your health journey and are committed to patient-centered treatments. Every patient has unique conditions and we approach each case by building a specialized treatment plan designed to relieve pain and restore you to optimum health.

White Pine Health also offers virtual physiotherapy sessions, so that you can receive the care you need right from the comfort of your own home. Contact us to book a free 20-minute video session today!

Tahmineh (Tammy) Kamza

Physiotherapist Dry Needling Provider Hydrotherapist   Tammy graduated from the University of Toronto with an “Honors in Science” and obtained her Doctorate in Physical Therapy in the United States. Her thesis, ‘Effects Of Exercise In Falls Prevention In Community-Dwelling Older Adults’ took almost 2 years to complete. She finished her manual therapy designations from trained professionals of St. Augustine University in Florida. Finally, got her Dry Needling certification from the prestigious organization Kinetacore, a leading post-graduate program in North America. Aside from manual therapy and dry needling, she is well versed in hydrotherapy, taping and corrective exercise. She is a true believer in active therapy, thus her treatment goals always include an emphasis on physical activity with aim of improving client’s functional abilities.

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