Physiotherapy Vs. Physical Therapy: The Surprising Answer

Physiotherapy Vs. Physical Therapy: The Surprising Answer

Is physiotherapy the same as physical therapy? Some say it’s the same thing. Others say there is a difference. Let’s check, once and for all, which group is correct by comparing physiotherapy vs. physical therapy.

What is physiotherapy?

NHS, the UK’s largest health website, describes physiotherapy as a type of treatment that “helps to restore movement and function when someone is affected by injury, illness or disability.” NHS adds this treatment can, “help to reduce your risk of injury or illness in the future.”

What is physical therapy?

MedicineNet defines physical therapy as “a branch of rehabilitative health that uses specially designed exercises and equipment to help patients regain or improve their physical abilities.”

Is physiotherapy the same as physical therapy?

The definitions above show that the terms are very similar but some claim that there are differences between the two:

What are the differences between physiotherapy vs. physical therapy?

  1. Focus of treatment

    1. Physiotherapy is focused mainly on hospital work such as post-operative care. 
    2. Physical therapy focuses primarily on the treatment of non-threatening injuries.
  2. Techniques

    1. Physiotherapy makes use of electrical modalities such as ultrasound, laser, interferential, tens, dry needles, and other non-manual treatments. Sometimes, they use hands-on therapy and corrective exercises and monitor the patient’s progress.
    2. Physical therapy focuses on the use of hands-on techniques mostly with therapists using electrical modalities and dry needling to help accelerate healing. Patients are typically given exercises and functional training that will help them recover.

How about the health professionals involved, physiotherapist vs. physical therapist?

  1. QualificationsDr. Voloshin - Sports Performance Training in Woodland Park, NJ

    1. Outside of the U.S. physiotherapists undergo a minimum of four years of training including at least 1,000 clinical hours. 
    2. Physical therapists, on the other hand, complete a three-year part-time degree that consists of twenty weekends a year over three years. 
  2. Workplace

    1. In most cases, physiotherapists work in hospitals.
    2. Physical therapists carry out their clinical practice in the private setting only.
  3. Techniques

    1. As mentioned earlier, physiotherapists use manual therapy including manipulation and mobilization. They also use electrotherapy. In recent years, pain management education and counseling techniques have become part of most treatment programs.
    2. Physical therapists use a holistic approach based on the manual treatment of soft tissue. They are more client-centered but do not specifically treat the spine. 

The differences between physiotherapy vs. physical therapy are minimal. Some experts have pointed out that the terms are synonyms and can be used interchangeably. 


So, it seems, the difference is mainly regional. In the United States, most clinics go with the term physical therapy. In other countries, such as Australia, Canada, Ireland, the U.K. and other parts of Europe, the profession is known as physiotherapy. 

Regardless of the term used, however, it is important to know that both professions focus on treating patients who have suffered injuries. Both professions also help patients regain some normalcy in their lives by teaching them how to do tasks independently or with as little help as possible.

Also, physical therapy and physiotherapy are both covered by most health insurance companies. If you’d like us to help you find out about your specific insurance

If you’d like to know more about how your insurance company covers physical therapy, please contact us today!

We’ve also covered similar topics like Physical Therapy Vs. Sports Medicine or Physical Therapy vs. Chiropractor in order to answer questions that patients ask us on a daily basis.