Difference between Physiotherapy and Physical Therapy

The terms physiotherapy and physical therapy can be used interchangeably. These terms are synonyms. However, if needed, Patients who visit physical therapy clinics frequently have queries and are perplexed by the phrases “physical therapy” and “physiotherapy.” What are the distinctions between physiotherapy and physical therapy, and how do they differ?

You might be surprised to hear that physical therapy and physiotherapy are the same things! There isn’t a distinction between the two words. To make a distinction, there could – perhaps – be one small difference between them. And this difference is primarily regionally based. In many parts of the world, including Australia, Canada, and Europe, the profession is known as physiotherapy. In the United States, we call professional physical therapy with one occasional exception.

Difference Between Physiotherapy and Physical Therapy

There appears to be very little difference between physical therapy and physiotherapy. Let’s find out:


Physiotherapy is a healthcare profession that focuses on human function and mobility to help people reach their full physical capabilities. Its main concern lies with identifying and maximizing quality of life and movement potential within the promotion, prevention, treatment/intervention, habilitation, and rehabilitation.

It’s important to note that physiotherapy takes the “whole person” approach to wellbeing and treatment, which looks at a person’s general lifestyle and health.

What Does  A Physiotherapist Do?

The role of the physiotherapist is varied and rarely the same for two days. A physiotherapist may need to assess a patient’s physical condition to diagnose problems and implement a treatment plan. Patients may need to be re-trained to walk or help others cope with crutches, walking frames, or wheelchairs.

Education is also an essential part of physiotherapy. Physiotherapists spend a lot of time educating patients, their families, and the community to prevent injuries and help people live a healthy lifestyle. A physiotherapist may also plan and implement community fitness programs. Physiotherapists also hold the authority to issue sick leave certificates if they deem it necessary.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy is medical care that aims to ease pain and help a person function, move, and live better. Specialists use it to relieve pain, improve movement or ability, prevent or recover from a sports injury, surgery, accident, and other similar situations. 

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

They are movement specialists who help people improve their quality of life by prescribing exercises, providing hands-on treatment, and educating patients.

Physical therapists assess and treat patients of all ages, from infants to those approaching the end of their lives. Many of the patients have injuries, impairments, or other health issues that need to be addressed.

PTs make use of the following modalities.

  • Specific exercises
  • Manipulation (a fast, accurate movement on the neck or back area for pain relief and improved flexibility)
  • Manual therapy (“hands-on” therapy without using machines or devices to reduce pain and improve joint movements)
  • Traction (“stretching” the spine manually or with the help of traction equipment)
  • Electrophysical modalities

Physiotherapy vs. Physical Therapy Focus 

To keep things simple, we can also look at these two therapy branches through their focus on treatment.

  • Physiotherapy focuses mainly on hospital work, such as post-operative care and other urgent situations. 
  • Physical therapy focuses mostly on the treatment of non-threatening injuries. The experts usually specialize in assessing and treating musculoskeletal problems such as muscle aches, pains, strains, injuries, and chronic movement issues, e.g., arthritis.

Difference between Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy

  • These are the movements of the body’s small muscles that occupational therapists focus on. A physiotherapist focuses more on gross motor skills, which are movements using the large muscles of the body.
  • A physiotherapist helps improve the quality of movement of the human body, whereas an occupational therapist helps improve the quality of participation in an individuals’ daily functional tasks. 

Clinical Specialties

Because the body of knowledge of physiotherapy is quite large, PTs tend to specialize in specific clinical areas. These include:

  • MSK / Ortho
  • Cardiopulmonary
  • Neurology
  • Pediatrics
  • Sports Medicine
  • Rheumatology
  • Older People / Geriatrics
  • Medical Conditions
  • Pain
  • Women’s Health
  • Oncology
  • Extended Scope
  • Public Health


There’s no doubt that there is no clear cut line in the physio vs. physical therapy debate. Both focus on preventing injury, improving flexibility, and managing pain.

However, based on the differences outlined here, patients can decide what works best for them in their specific situation.

The most important part is choosing a highly qualified and trusted practitioner and getting a personal situation assessment.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

1- What is physiotherapy vs. chiropractor?

The main difference is that a chiropractor traditionally uses manipulation of the spine and limbs, whereas a physiotherapist will more commonly use mobilization techniques and rehabilitation exercises.

2- What conditions could be treated at a physiotherapy clinic?

Patients are referred to a physiotherapy clinic to help treat various conditions, including musculoskeletal, neurological, cardiorespiratory, cancer, and orthopedic issues.


3- How Much Physical Therapists Earn

The median salary for a physical therapist is $85,000. Salaries vary based on position, years of experience, degree of education, geographic location, and practice setting. If you want more information regarding Therapists, you can book an appointment with the best Therapists in Karachi through Marham.



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