Physiotherapy vs Physical therapy: what’s the difference?

Difference between Physiotherapy and Physical therapy

Physiotherapy and Physical therapy: Same or not?

Some say yes and some don’t, let’s compare both physiotherapy and physical therapy.

The term Physiotherapy and physical therapy is not same according to Dr. Jarod Carter of Carter Physiotherapy, although there is a minute difference between these two terms.Often these terms used synonymously, and professions are considered similar. But at the same time some people also argue that there is minimal difference between physiotherapy and physical therapy.This confusion actually starts when people use these terms as synonyms so, distinction between the two get pretty complex.


Mostly people does not know what this terms means. According to the NHS, “physiotherapy helps to restore movement and function when someone is affected by injury, illness or disability. It can also help to reduce your risk of injury or illness in the future”.

manual technique

Physical therapy

According to Medicine Net “Physical therapy is a branch of rehabilitative health that uses specially designed exercises and equipment to help patients regain or improve their physical abilities”.


According to some healthcare professionals/practitioners:

  • Physiotherapists help to improve patient’s injury by applying manual techniques like stretching, fascial release, soft tissue or joint mobilization. Recently, techniques of pain management and counseling have become part of physiotherapy’s treatment. Therapists use only their hands to treat patients.In physical therapy, the main focus is exercise for strengthening muscle and to improve balance
  • Physiotherapy used to deal with pain through manual therapy and electrotherapy (e.g Tens, ultrasound,laser, interferential,dry needling). Sometimes they use exercises to accelerate a patient’s health. While in physical therapy, they can’t use tens in their treatment and mainly focus on non-threatening Injuries. Patients are given exercise training that will help them to restore their normal range of motion.
  • Physiotherapists work mostly in hospitals where they treat different conditions and have large numbers of patients and can’t provide lengthy treatments because of time pressure and patients waiting list. While physical therapists work mostly in private clinics,having longer client consultation and detailed history taken on first appointment.They use holistic approach and are more client centred.Treatment given by a physical therapist is generally 45 to 60 minutes.

In past,there may be a lot of difference,but now a minute difference between these two terms and it also depend on region or area.But still if you are forced to make some distinctions,there could be some differences between them and sometimes this difference is regional based e.g. in some countries like Australia, Canada and Europe the profession is called physiotherapy.On the other hand in United States, people called it as physical therapy.Most probably, these are the only places where these terms are used differently, otherwise they are synonymous.

Basically these two terms can be used interchangeably. It just depends on where you are in the world or where you live.

Both terms help to prevent injury, improve range of motion, and management of pain. They treat patients suffering from back pain, neck pain, accident’s injuries, sports injuries, nerves, tendon or ligaments related issues.


The difference is minimal. Both terms are synonymous and can be used interchangeably. The difference is mainly regional but obviously main goal of both professions help to treat patients.

So, what’s in a name? Because it’s definitely not a matter of consequence, you know what to expect and the doctor know what they are doing.