Physical Therapist vs Physiotherapist: Is it the Same Thing?


At present, both the differences and the similarities between the terms a Physical Therapist and Physiotherapist as a branch of health are still somehow debated.

Therefore, although it is heard or understood that they are the same, they have some peculiarities that make them different from each other.

WHO definition

In 1958, the World Health Organization defined physiotherapy as “the health science in charge of applying a variety of treatments through therapeutic exercises, physical means, electrotherapy, and massage therapy, with powers to carry out manual and electrical tests to determine both muscle strength and the degree of affectation, tests of a range of motion, measures of vital capacity, tests to determine functional capacities, as well as diagnostic evaluations to control evolution”.

On the other hand, physical therapy itself is defined within the health sector as a program designed to evaluate and correct the mobility and stability of patients who suffer a certain injury or physical trauma.

Other differences

At the same time, it should be noted that a physiotherapist and a physical therapist can have different roles depending on the country in which they are located. In the UK for example, a physiotherapist is the one who has completed a 3-year bachelor’s degree and is endorsed by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Even in recent times, physiotherapists have been recognized and authorized to medicate patients who have an appropriate medical history.

In the United States, the body that regulates and certifies the practice of physical therapy is the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and it is known that even each jurisdiction or state, can have its own definition.

In Wikipedia, we can find both terms as synonyms, although it also clarifies that the most marked differences are given by the entity that defines these careers in each country.

While these two specialties share conceptual definitions and other practices, a physiotherapist can also specialize in other branches of physical therapy such as:

  • Child or pediatric physical therapy
  • Oncological physiotherapy
  • Sports physiotherapy
  • Orthopedic Physiotherapy
  • Geriatric Physiotherapy
  • Clinical electrophysiology
  • Pulmonary Physiotherapy
  • Cardiovascular Physiotherapy
  • Wound management
  • Women’s health

Profile of a physical therapist

  • It employs the conceptualization of a range of physical agents using specialized technology and applying it to patients with disabilities.
  • Applies the practice of the physical therapy process based on the theory of “comprehensive care for patients with disabilities” to relieve pain.
  • It evaluates the degrees of mobility, functional activities, postural defects, muscular function, and gait of the patients to have a precise focus on the treatment to be applied.
  • Adapts, applies, and contributes to the development of Physical Therapy technology necessary for the optimal care of patients with different disabilities.

Profile of a physiotherapist

  • They focus on specialized areas, for example, in the care of the respiratory tract or burns, in patients with learning disabilities, or the elderly.
  • They teach specialized preventive measures to prevent injury, trauma, or other health problems. If a physiotherapist specializes in respiratory problems, he needs to re-educate the patient to quit the bad habit and show him the methods to achieve it.
  • They promote methods to treat diseases such as obesity as it hinders the mobility of patients, teach elderly patients to avoid falls, prevent osteoporosis, help patients choose wheelchairs or crutches, and teach how to use them.


Although both a physiotherapist and a physical therapist seem to fulfill the same functions, we must take into account the jurisdiction or country in which we are located. However, both professionals cover the universe of problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system.

The most important areas such as Anatomy, Physics, Psychology, Biology, Histology, Clinical Ethics, Pedagogical, and Rehabilitation Research are fundamental for the training of these health professionals. Check out Miracle Rehab Clinic more detailed article about this subject.

Written by Megan Taylor
Megan is a beauty expert who is passionate about all things makeup and glam! Her love for makeup has brought her to become a beauty pro at Glamour Garden Cosmetics.