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  • Writer's pictureJulie Manley

What is physiotherapy?

Fun fact: the terms physiotherapy and physical therapy (as well as physiotherapist and physical therapist) are used interchangeably in Canada. 

Physiotherapists treat a wide variety of conditions for people of all abilities and ages. Not only do physiotherapists help people rehabilitate from injuries (no matter how big or small), we also play a role in the prevention of injury and disease, the maintenance of balance, mobility, and function, and we can help optimize independence and performance. You don’t have to have a ton of discomfort or have a serious diagnosis before you seek physiotherapy services, but if you do, we’re here to help! 

All physiotherapists registered for practice in Canada are university educated and have passed standardized national entry-level physiotherapy competency exams. Physiotherapy candidates in Ontario complete a four year Bachelor degree (any major, with specific pre-requisite courses) before completing a two year Master of Science in Physical Therapy. 

Physiotherapists are primary health care professionals, so you do not necessarily need a doctor’s referral to book an appointment; however, some insurance providers require a doctor’s referral before covering the service. 

Physiotherapy uses movement science to address concerns related to muscles and bones, the heart and lungs, the nervous system (i.e. brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves), and pain (acute and persistent). We can also provide treatment for the vestibular system and vertigo as well as post-concussion rehabilitation. A biopsychosocial approach is important in physiotherapy, meaning we consider various factors in a person’s life that could be influencing their symptoms and recovery.

Just like snowflakes, no two physiotherapists are the same! Physiotherapists complete continuing education throughout their careers in order to provide care that is up-to-date and evidence based. Different physiotherapists could have different approaches to treating the same conditions, and some physiotherapists might have more experience in specific areas of practice. Please don’t count physiotherapy out or feel discouraged or helpless if you’ve seen one physiotherapist but didn’t achieve the results you expected. It’s possible you can find another physiotherapist who’s a better fit for you!

Physiotherapists work in many different settings, from emergency departments and intensive care units, to outpatient clinics (like Active Living!), home care settings, sports teams, and more. 

To learn more about the profession, ask us! Or check out these resources:

College of Physiotherapists of Ontario: 

Ontario Physiotherapy Association:

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