Physiotherapy vs Physical Therapy – What’s the Difference?

With the number of physiotherapists working in Canada on the rise, people may wonder what the difference is between physiotherapy vs physical therapy.

The physiotherapy vs physical therapy question is actually quite easy to answer: there is no discernable difference between the two terms. Having said that, there can be a difference between physiotherapy and physical therapy – you just won’t find it in most medical manuals or physiotherapy glossaries.

Below, we’ll dive into what differences you may encounter when asking the ‘physiotherapy vs physical therapy’ question, as well as examine some of the applications and techniques used by physical therapy health practitioners, some commonly used by our Brampton physiotherapy specialists.

While there may not be a difference between the two terms, that doesn’t mean that everyone will use the words interchangeably.

Until recently, the difference between physical therapy vs physiotherapy typically went like this:

  • Physical therapy was often associated with an exercise-based approach to treatment
  • Physiotherapy was typically focused on hands-on manual-based therapy

For those unfamiliar with the term, manual therapy refers to:

  • The use of hands-on treatments that are designed to relieve pain and restore range of motion through joint mobilization. This is achieved through kneading and manipulating muscles to flush out scar tissue, helping to alleviate pain at the source while also promoting the healing process.

Exercise-based treatment, by contrast, involves:

  • A regimen or plan of physical activities is prescribed to help patients recover from conditions that disturb their movement and activity.

That manual-exercise distinction between physical therapy and physiotherapy has all but disappeared over the past few years, however, and now the terms physical therapy and physiotherapy have become largely synonymous.

Note, however, that the physical therapy vs physiotherapy answer could change slightly based on your geographical location.

In many Commonwealth countries, for instance, like Canada and the UK, the terms physiotherapy and physical therapy were differentiated based on education and training, with physiotherapy in the past having been considered a more skilled profession relative to physical therapy.

In the United States, meanwhile, the terms have pretty much always been used interchangeably.

But if you ask someone who is perhaps a little older or has been working in the industry for a number of years, they may supply a different answer should you ask them ‘what is the difference between physiotherapy and physical therapy’?

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Physical Therapy Vs Physiotherapy – What’s Really Important

While the physiotherapy and physical therapy difference isn’t really all that distinct or important these days, here’s what is important: your treatment. After all, it doesn’t matter what you call them so long as your physiotherapist and physical therapist provide care and proper treatment.

Getting you the right treatment – regardless of the preferred term – is the most important job for a physical therapist or physiotherapist.

Physiotherapy helps improve and restore function and mobility in the body by pinpointing an injury’s root cause. It can include:

  • Physical rehabilitation and recovery
  • Injury prevention
  • Managing chronic conditions
  • Restoring movement and range of motion
  • Pain relief
  • And more

While physiotherapy (also referred to as PT therapy) is often associated with athletes or sports medicine, plenty of people outside of sports benefit from physiotherapy.

So while physiotherapy vs physical therapy as a debate is ultimately moot, what remains important is helping patients recover and improve their range of motion and physical strength.

How Physiotherapy Can Help – Therapy Treatments

As outlined above, physiotherapy can be used to treat a number of different ailments and conditions, including:

  • Sports injuries
  • Knee pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Soft tissue damage
  • Back pain
  • Joint pain
  • Neck pain
  • Ankle sprains
  • Restoring mobility in joints
  • Strengthening muscles

As physiotherapy has a wide range of applications, it has an equally diverse set of techniques that will help in your recovery or treatment.

Physical therapies include:

  • General physiotherapy
  • Supplemental massage therapy
  • Advanced techniques like ultrasound therapy and electrotherapy

PT health providers and practitioners are always on the lookout for the best ways to improve patient outcomes and overall health and wellness.

White Pine Health Private Practice – Patient-Centered Physiotherapy

Difference between physiotherapy and physical therapy

There you have it. Now when people ask ‘what’s the difference between physical therapy and physiotherapy?’ or ‘is physiotherapy and physical therapy the same?’ you have an answer ready at hand.

But we know that the physiotherapy vs physical therapy question isn’t likely to be the only question you have regarding PT treatments.

Health providers at White Pine Health offer a full range of physiotherapy and rehabilitation services. Committed to patient-centered treatments, we don’t cut corners and work with our clients to develop a physiotherapy plan that works for them, making White Pine among the top physical therapy clinics in the region. We also provide physiotherapy in Vaughan, Woodbridge, and Mississauga.

We approach every patient’s unique conditions with a specialized treatment plan intended to restore and improve our patient’s health, helping them get pain-free and mobile.

And with your PT needs not slowing down during the pandemic, we offer virtual physiotherapy sessions so you can get the care you need right from the comfort of your own home. Contact White Pine Health today to book a free 20-minute video session and start living pain-free!

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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