Difference between physical therapy and physiotherapyMany people ask me, “What is the difference between physical therapy and physiotherapy?” Some claim that physiotherapy indicates more of a hands-on manual therapy approach to rehabilitation, while physical therapy indicates a more exercise-based approach to rehabilitation. In my opinion, however, these terms are synonymous.

The distinction probably stems from the fact that outside the United States (at least until the last 5 years or so), treatment of musculoskeletal conditions by physiotherapists was much more hands-on manual therapy based than in the U.S. Luckily, manual therapy training and its popularity have skyrocketed in the U.S., and many more physical therapists are also becoming certified, highly skilled manual therapy specialists. Additionally, most Americans would use the term “physical therapy” to describe what people outside the U.S. would typically call “physiotherapy”, although there may be very little or no difference in the actual treatments provided.

Dealing with Pain or Injury in the Greater Austin Area?

The most important question to ask if you are considering any treatment option has nothing to do with which term is used to describe a PT clinic, rather the training and treatment approach of the practice itself. Wherever you decide to get treatment, ensure that the therapists provide hands-on manual therapy techniques along with the therapeutic exercises for rehabilitation common to most physical therapy clinics in the U.S. In most cases, you will get much more complete and faster results by utilizing hands-on treatments along with exercises as opposed to only doing exercises and stretches.

In the following FAQ video, we answer the related question:

Are physiotherapy and physical therapy the same thing?

(From the video transcription) Ben: The terms “Physiotherapy” and ‘’Physical Therapy’’ are interchangeable. It just depends on where you are in the world. Some people in the U.S. will use the term “physio”, but for the most part, Americans use the term “physical therapy. I think it’s one of the only places where ‘’physical therapy’’ is used because now the two terms are pretty synonymous. Jarod: Yep, they’re synonomous. Although some out there might say “No. Physical therapy is more exercise-based and physiotherapy is more hands-on manual based,” they think that because, outside of the U.S. until the last ten years, physiotherapy involved much more hands-on manual therapy training. Here, it was more exercise-based, but now manual therapy is widely taught and practiced by American physical therapists as well.   And finally, concerning my own physical therapy practice in Austin, I’m often asked:

Why did you choose the name “Carter Physiotherapy” rather than “Carter Physical Therapy”?

The answer is two-fold:

  1. Carter Physical Therapy was already taken by a PT practice on the West coast.
  2. I am a dual U.S.-Australian citizen and feel somewhat of a connection with the term “physiotherapy” as well.

In conclusion: Although you’ll find that different PT practices either use physical therapy or physiotherapy to describe their services, they basically mean the same thing today, both in the U.S. and abroad. Click here for more information on the treatment philosophies and methods you can expect at our PT clinic in Austin.

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