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Physiotherapy vs Physical Therapy

A patient undergoing physical therapy at Don Valley

What’s in a name, you may ask, since names can be significant sources of information in the scientific world. If two words sound similar, the question of the difference in meaning is bound to come up.

For instance, the terms ‘physical’ and ‘physiological,’ though appearing to have similar roots, have entirely different meanings.

In this case, do the treatments physical therapy and physiotherapy have different meanings as well?

According to Dr. Jarod Carter of Carter Physiotherapy, the answer is no, not at all! This is an opinion many people in his physiotherapy profession seem to share: there appears to be very little difference between physical therapy and physiotherapy.

Often, the two terms are used synonymously, and the professions are considered generally similar. However, some might argue that there are minute differences in the both job descriptions. Continue reading to learn what some healthcare professionals have figured out as the main differences between physical therapy and physiotherapy, whether they’re large or small.


Physiotherapy vs. Physical Therapy

  1. It is believed that physiotherapy involves a hands-on approach and makes skilled use of manual therapy (such as stretching, joint mobilization, soft tissue release, etc.) Physical therapy, on the other hand, adopts a more exercise-based approach (for strengthening muscles, improving balance, etc.).

  2. In countries such as Ireland and Australia, the term physiotherapist is much more common. In these countries, the physical therapist profession is considered a lower career-ranking job than physiotherapy, as physical therapy requires less schooling. In the U.S., however, the terms are used interchangeably.

  3. The methods used to deal with pain are much more varied in physiotherapy, including manual therapy and electrotherapy treatment techniques such as TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation). A physical therapist would not commonly use the TENS method.

  4. A physical therapist usually has a private practice which allows them to develop a better client-therapist relationship. The average physiotherapist, in comparison, may work in a hospital setting so as to be able to treat a greater number of patients with different conditions, including referrals from other types of doctors.


We would be splitting hairs if we were to continue picking out minor differences between the two professions. As mentioned before, it can also depends on the region or the country you’re in, including the local language and its quirks.

So yes, in this case, you can go ahead and ask, “What’s in a name?” because it certainly does not seem to be a matter of consequence. All that matters is that you know what to expect and your doctor knows what they are doing.

For the best care from highly skilled therapists, visit Don Valley Health and Wellness Centre in Toronto, Canada. Relief is not the only thing we promise; we also provide you with essential education about your body, so that you know the cause of the problems as well as solutions and prevention methods. You can learn more by visiting our website at


Do you know what the benefits of physiotherapy? Read more