Physiotherapists and Physical Therapists

What’s the difference between a Physiotherapist and Physical Therapist?

I am asked this question frequently. My answer is, most often, “There is no difference.”

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Officially, any graduate of a University physiotherapy program in Canada is designated as a Physiotherapist. In the US, similarly trained graduates are designated as Physical Therapists, thus the terms are used interchangeably.

In Canada

In Canada, the physiotherapy profession is a self-regulated and recognized health profession. Physiotherapists are primary care practitioners, in other words, a client doesn’t need a doctor’s referral to see a Physiotherapist.

Physiotherapy is exclusively performed by a physiotherapist or another trained individual working under a physiotherapist’s direction and supervision. The Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA)  emphasizes that an assessment or evaluation – unless provided by a physiotherapist – is not physiotherapy.

Although the titles physiotherapist and physical therapist, including their abbreviations and equivalents in other languages, are protected titles under all provincial and territorial legislation, the practice terms (physiotherapy and physical therapy) are not. CPA believes that the practice terms should receive legislative protection in all Canadian jurisdictions and be reserved for use by the regulated physiotherapy professional. Protection of title and clarity of professional activity is considered important for the protection of the public.

When seeking physiotherapy or physical therapy treatment be sure it is provided by a certified Physiotherapist or in the US, a certified Physical Therapist.

About Susan Rankin

Susan Rankin has been practicing Physiotherapy since 1977. She did her undergraduate work at McGill University and post-graduate study at McMaster University. Susan is a certified Vestibular Therapist as designated by Emory University. In preparation for research on rehabilitation of the facial nerve, she was trained in the techniques of facial retraining by a therapist from Dr. Balliet’s clinic. She has been practicing the technique since 1986.
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