How is Physiotherapy Different From Physical Therapy?

People tend to get confused between physiotherapy and physical therapy because of their functional similarities. To be honest, there are some debates about their differences. 

Generally speaking, the terms “physical therapy” and “physiotherapy” are often used synonymously because both of them aim to improve your physical health through chiropractic, massages, and routine exercises. 

However, the definitions and usage of these terms usually differ based on the therapy approach and locations. While you might hear the term “physiotherapy” in Canada, Europe, or Australia, “physical therapy” is more popular in the US. 

There are also some differences between their therapeutic techniques and approaches. So, if you’re looking for massage therapy in Oakville, make sure you read till the end.

Physiotherapy Different From Physical Therapy

What Does Physical Therapy Entail?

Physical therapy primarily aims to treat chronic pain to help people have better mobility and improve their quality of living while emphasizing a particular treatment area. People seeking physical therapy usually experience acute pain due to immobility, accidents, injuries, surgeries, or growth defects. 

A licensed physical therapist usually treats non-threatening injuries through the treatment of musculoskeletal issues. Physical therapists often use specialized equipment and follow an exercise-based approach alongside a hands-on approach, like stretching and massages. 

Furthermore, physical therapists often include contraction and relaxation exercises in a patient’s regime for better mobility. Most patients have to practice regular exercises at home as a part of their physical therapy routine. 

Physical therapy also uses hot and cold therapies to treat patients. Cold therapies, such as ice packs, cryogenics, or liquid nitrogen, can lessen chronic pain conditions. Similarly, hot therapies, like diathermy, hot packs, and infrared heat, can treat joint pains. 

What Does Physiotherapy Entail?

Physiotherapy includes a range of services, interventions, and customized programs to restore and improve the motor functions of patients. Unlike physical therapy, physiotherapy isn’t just restricted to treating pain from surgeries, accidents, or injuries. 

Physiotherapy helps patients in every stage of their lives to enhance their movements and functional abilities, which have been compromised due to the following:

  • Health conditions 
  • Disease 
  • Aging 
  • Environmental factors 
  • Disorders 
  • Weight issues

Physiotherapists, like physical therapists, usually apply a whole-body approach instead of focusing on a particular treatment area. They try to improve patients’ general lifestyles and health to alleviate their physical ailments. 

Moreover, physiotherapy applies a hands-on manual approach to mobilize, manipulate, and massage the muscle tissues using hands. It helps to improve muscle movement and blood circulation while relieving stiffness and pain. 

Physiotherapists take a holistic approach and manual techniques, such as massages, soft tissue techniques, joint mobilization, joint manipulation, physiotherapy instrument mobilization (PIM), and minimal energy techniques (METs). It can also include techniques like acupuncture, kinesiology, and osteopathy.


Physiotherapy follows a more holistic approach compared to physical therapy despite their similar health benefits. The former offers a more whole-rounded therapeutic program, while the latter focuses specifically on pain treatment. 

You can seek either of these health therapies depending on the severity and causes of your pain symptoms. Despite the differences in their approach and techniques, both physiotherapy and physical therapy focus on educating patients about how to recover and manage their injuries, disabilities, and illnesses. 

Just remember always to contact a licensed therapist who can properly guide you through the entire process. Take care, and stay healthy!