Who is a Physiotherapist and What they do?

A physiotherapist (also known as physio or physiotherapy specialist) is a trained or educated healthcare professional that helps in the management and prevention of pain, injury, disability and impairment.

Physiotherapists deploy their skills on people of all ages, backgrounds and experiences. The job of a physiotherapist is to help you improve your health and achieve your fitness goals through evidence-based treatment.

What is the role of a Physiotherapist?

A physiotherapist is a trained expert who helps you properly manage body pains, prevent diseases, and improve the performance of major body parts. The role of a physiotherapist may range from the Olympian task of helping athletes attain the height of their career to helping the elderly to walk properly.

The major ways a physiotherapist help you live a healthier life is through education, exercises or workouts and teachings on lifestyle modifications. In other words, a physiotherapist employs tools such as education and fitness instructions to help you live a healthier life.

Physios are also trained to diagnose similar therapeutic conditions that are similar to musculoskeletal problems. This is because physiologists are the primary contact health professional whenever the health issue concerns musculoskeletal problems.

Where after diagnosis, the physiologist discovers that the problem is outside the scope of physiotherapy, he immediately refers such case to a doctor, surgeon or psychologist, according to the peculiar need of the patient.

How do you become a Physiotherapist

To become a physiotherapist, you must undergo the following trainings:

  1. Complete a Bachelor, Masters or Doctorate degree at a university, which will have taken at least four years to complete.
  2. Register with the Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency.
  3. Meet the professional standards, such as recent work as a physiotherapist.
  4. Must undergo the continued professional development.
  5. You must have a clean criminal history.
  6. Have worked in accordance with the Board’s Code of Conduct.
  7. Covered by professional indemnity insurance.

Is a Physiotherapist a doctor?

NO, a physiotherapist is not a doctor. Physiotherapists are, by their educational and vocational training, experts who ensure musculoskeletal health. They do not prescribe medication or perform invasive procedures.

Some people acquire Doctorates of Physiotherapy to become qualified, but they are still not a doctor.

What is the difference between a Physiotherapist and a Physical Therapist?

In one word – nothing.

A Physical Therapist is typically a slightly different name for a physiotherapist in America and Canada. In Australia, a physiotherapist (or physio) is the only term used.

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What is the difference between a Physiotherapist, a Chiropractor and an Osteopath?

There are a lot of differences between them.


A physiotherapist is an evidence-based health profession. In other words, they use the best evidence in order to educate and treat their clients. The overall aim is to help people to achieve goals and performance levels where physiotherapy is no longer needed.


Chiropractors on the other hand aim to diagnose, correct and prevent issues of the musculoskeletal system. They tend to use manipulation of the spine and limbs as treatments in order to decrease pain and move more freely.

What we know from research is that manipulation is not an effective first line of treatment for most conditions. It can be useful for low back pain in the short term, however, it is no more beneficial than other forms of treatment such as exercise, which can be performed independently and ongoing by the patient.

Some chiropractors claim that spinal “adjustments” can have a range of health benefits including eliminating disease, infections and illness, however, there is no evidence to support this.

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Osteopathy works on the view that poor health can be caused by posture, injury and bad lifestyle habits.

They aim to look at how the body functions as a whole, by focusing on many aspects including skin, tissue, joints, muscles, organs and circulation. They tend to treat with a combination of techniques including manipulation, massage and soft tissue, stretches, advice and exercise.

As with chiropractic, there is limited high-quality evidence to demonstrate the benefits of osteopathy.

Now, there are many people out there who see some excellent Chiro’s and Osteo’s and get some great results. These Chiro’s and Osteo’s tend to swing towards the more evidence-based treatments of movement and exercise which is where these two professions start to look a lot more like a physiotherapist. We’re completely and unashamedly biased here.

If you want the best outcome, see the profession acting in line with the evidence most of the time, that’s physiotherapy. If you’re already seeing a Chiro or Osteo and getting good results, keep it up!

What are the best physiotherapy exercises?

Take back pain for example:

Cycling, swimming, running, pilates and weights all tend to have the same benefits.

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The best physiotherapy exercise is the one you enjoy the most as you are more likely to do it. Consistency is the key!

A physiotherapist is highly-skilled at helping you find the right type, amount, level of exercise and future progressions.

They’ll also keep you on track and ensure that when life happens, and you start to deviate from your plan that you’re able to be pulled back on track and get to where your goals are taking you.