Physiotherapist vs Exercise Physiologist

We are often asked this question about the difference between physiotherapy and exercise physiology, so we want to help you understand the differences and similarities, and how they can help you.

Distinguishing between a Physiotherapist and Exercise Physiologist can be quite difficult, as the two aren’t mutually exclusive or completely different. Both Exercise Physiologists and physiotherapists can work within a broad scope of practice, and so it is normal that confusion exists and there is a lot of overlap.

Difference between Physio and Exercise Physiology

A Physiotherapist is a university trained professional that is part of the “Allied Health” group. Generally, Physiotherapists are specialists in the area of treating acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain and disorders. Physiotherapists are known to use a variety of methods such as dry needling, massage, joint mobilisation, taping and rehab exercises.

Exercise Physiology, by comparison, is a relatively new profession. Exercise Physiologists (EPs) are also University trained and part of the Allied Health group. Exercise Physiologists utilise evidence based movement and exercise prescription for musculoskeletal injury and chronic disease prevention and management. EPs can work in public health, and also in private practice. EPs will also address lifestyle and behaviour modification, considering the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of your presentation so that we can work towards prevention of flare-ups, as well as rehab of the current situation. EP’s will aim to find and treat the cause of your problem as well as treating the symptoms to make you feel good.

Length of Tertiary Study for Exercise Physiology

Even more in common, both professions undertake 4+ years of university training, studying subjects such as anatomy, physiology, cardiopulmonary function, nervous system function and biomechanics. Both professions are recognised by Medicare and private health funds, and require yearly professional development to maintain accreditation.

However, Exercise Physiologists undergo 4 years of study around injuries and conditions and the best exercises to treat them. A Physiotherapist degree will include a lesser component of exercise prescription, and is commonly studied more after graduating. So while physiotherapy and exercise physiology are often confused, the fact is, both share a common goal; facilitating improved physiological functioning. We just go about it in different ways. Therefore, if you have just suffered an injury and need your symptoms settled, a Physio may be the best choice. However, if your injury or condition is greater than a few weeks old and you need exercises as part of your rehabilitation, an Exercise Physiologist would a good choice for you as they specialise in exercise therapy.

If you think you would benefit from seeing one of our health professionals but want to know more, get in touch and we’d be happy to help.

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