is physiotherapy the same as physical therapy

Are “Physical Therapy” And “Physiotherapy” The Same Thing?

The short answer to this is, YES, “physical therapy” and “physiotherapy” are the same thing. Whether you call us your physio, physiotherapist, physical therapist or even just PT, they all mean the same thing.In Canada, “physiotherapy” and “physiotherapists” are the more commonly used terms. “Physical therapy” or “physical therapists” are used by our neighbours to the south more often.

Regardless of what you call us, all physiotherapists need to be licensed by their respective provincial or state colleges before being able to practice and see patients. Here in BC, it is the College of Physiotherapists of British Columbia, or CPTBC for short.

How Do I Find A Physiotherapist Near Me?

Most patients look to find a physiotherapist by asking their family, friends or family doctor for a referral. Others may search online. Another way is to go to your provincial physiotherapy association or college website and they will have a listing of practitioners near you.

For example: Physiotherapy Association of British Columbia

physical therapist vs physiotherapist Canada

What Does It Take To Become A Physio?

While in university, your physiotherapist will be trained in a number of different areas. Some of the courses they take include topics such as:

  • Anatomy
  • Clinical decision making
  • Clinical practice
  • Exercise and movement
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Neurophysiology
  • Pathology

In Canada, students need to first graduate with either a university undergraduate or masters degree in physiotherapy. After graduating, they next need to pass both a written and practical competency exam in order to be fully licensed. In some provinces, physios are able to begin working under an interim license after passing their written exam.

All physiotherapists need to be qualified and registered with their provincial college in order to see patients. For example, the College of Physiotherapists of British Columbia .

Why Did You Become A Physio?

There are many different reasons why someone would choose the career path of becoming a physiotherapist.

Oftentimes, it is through an injury and their own personal experience in getting help from a physiotherapist that sparks their interest. Other times, it is seeing the impact a physio has on helping a close family member or friend recovering from injury and getting their life back.

Whichever reason it may be, a common theme is the desire to help others and a keen interest in learning how our amazing bodies work.

“They really helped my mom after her car accident”

“I injured my knee in a skiing accident and I was inspired by the physio who treated me”

“I wanted to give people hope in knowing that there is a way to get better”

physiotherapy vs physical therapy Canada

Where Do Physios Get Their Training

Currently, there are more than 26,000 physiotherapists working across Canada. Most physiotherapists graduate from university either here in Canada or in the US.

About 20% of physios receive their training outside of Canada. Some of the more common countries include:

  • Australia
  • United Kingdom
  • Brazil
  • India

Where Do Physiotherapists Work?

More than half or about 60% of physios work in a community setting such as a private clinic.

A little less than 35% of physiotherapists work in hospitals. In a hospital setting, they may help patients with a variety of issues such as:

  • Cardiac
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Neo-natal
  • Neurological
  • Orthopedic
  • Post-surgical
  • Respiratory
  • Stroke recovery

The remainder may work in areas such as long term care facilities or as consultants.

physical therapy vs physiotherapy

Ways Your Physio Can Help

Your physiotherapist is a key member of your health care team and plays an important role in keeping you moving and healthy. Physios work with more than just athletes and sports injuries. Some of the areas your physio can help you include:

  • Balance problems
  • Concussion recovery
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Orthopedic issues
  • Post-surgical rehab
  • Sports injuries and performance
  • Sprains and strains
  • Workplace injuries

Once your physio has determined what the problem is, they can use a variety of treatment approaches to help you recover. Some of the more common treatments used include:

  • Manual therapy
  • Exercise rehab
  • Core strengthening
  • Ice, heat
  • Laser
  • Needling
  • Postural correction
  • Ultrasound

To Wrap Things Up

Physiotherapist, physical therapist, it is really just semantics. Your physiotherapist has spent years learning and honing their craft. Whether you hurt your back, knee or just want to jump higher, your physio will have a solution for you.

When you visit your physiotherapist, they will start by assessing your condition to find out what is causing your pain and symptoms. They will then review their findings and give you their recommendations on the most effective treatment approach. Depending on your injury, your physio treatment often inlcudes manul or hands-on therapy, rehab exercises, education, use of electrical modalities, needling or taping

Visit Your Physio

If you have any questions or need help, schedule an appointment with your physiotherapist. They can help you find out what is wrong and what is the best way to help you get better and moving.

Phone 604-738-1168

See Your Physio


Q: “Physiotherapist”, “Physical Therapist”, “Tom-A-to”, “Tom-ah-to”?

A: They are all the same. Physio, PT, physical therapist, physiotherapist. They are the same person who helps you move better and longer. Generally, in Canada “physiotherapist’ is often used whereas in the US, “physical therapist” is more common. However, both terms are applicable in either country

Physiotherapy is thought to have possibly originated in Sweden in the 1800s as a treatment approach to help gymnasts deal with a variety of injuries using manipulation, exercise and massage. The origins of the word “physiotherapy” derives from the Greek term “phusis” and thus “physio” meaning “nature”. The second half, “therapy”, also originates from the Greek word “therapeia” which translates into “healing”

Q: Is my physiotherapist a doctor?

A: Though some physiotherapists undergo further education may obtain a PhD degree, your physiotherapist is not a “medical doctor”. They are a vital part of your health care team. Some students do graduate with DPT degrees, or Doctor of Physical Therapy, but this is more common in the US than it is in Canada.

As an integral part of your healthcare team, your physiotherapist will work closely with your other health providers, such as your family physician, orthopedic surgeon, neurologist, physiatrist, registered massage therapist and chiropractor

Q:How does someone become a physiotherapist?

A: Your physiotherapist has completed either a university-level undergraduate or masters degree in physiotherapy. They have passed both written and practical competency exams before receiving their license to practice physiotherapy.

After graduating with their physiotherapy degree, many physiotherapists continue on with post-graduate training in a number of different specialties. These areas of focus can include sports, dance, orthopedics, cardiovascular, neurology, pediatrics, geriatrics, women’s health or concussion