Physical Therapy and Physiotherapy can be interchangeable terms. Both professions involve the study, diagnosis and treatment of diseases and injuries of the musculoskeletal system. Physical therapy usually refers to procedures that are used to treat disorders of the musculoskeletal system, while physiotherapy usually refers to the field of medicine that includes physiological and pathological assessment and prevention of disease. In the United States, there are approximately 3 dozen colleges that offer formal programs in physical therapy. However, much like medicine, there are varying levels of education required for a student to become a physical therapist.
A physical therapist is someone who specializes in treating disorders of the musculoskeletal system through the aid of controlled stimulation. For example, a physical therapist might stretch or exercise muscles in order to alleviate pain. This type of treatment is often called “kinesiology” and the techniques may include manual techniques (like those done by weightlifters), electrotherapy, ultrasound, heat, electricity, or a combination of these. Physical therapists use techniques to help patients regain strength, mobility or endurance after an injury or illness.
There are many areas of specialization within physical therapy. One such area is pediatric physical therapy, which is usually offered at medical or dental schools. In this program, physical therapists are trained to deal with children suffering from birth defects, paralysis or other illnesses. Pediatric physical therapy schools also teach the same types of techniques that are used in adult therapy, only with smaller amounts of equipment and more personalized attention given to each patient. These schools also incorporate education about nutrition, exercise, and good health habits into their curriculum.
Another form of specialized physical therapy is geriatric physical therapy, sometimes referred to as geriatric physiotherapy. In this field, physical therapists treat older patients with physical problems that are related to age. These problems can include Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Some of these conditions affect the muscles as well as the joints and require different kinds of treatment than traditional physical therapy. A physical therapist who deals with these conditions as part of their training will need to have extensive training and experience in dealing with older patients.
Sports medicine is another area where you may find yourself dividing hairs when you speak of physical therapy and physiotherapy. This discipline is typically for athletes and other persons involved in contact sports. Physical therapy schools usually specialize in treating athletes who sustain injuries related to sports and other contact activities.
You may wonder if a physiotherapist who is involved in sports medicine would be better qualified to treat an injured athlete who has been playing the sport for years. The answer is that this kind of professional does offer specialized training in treating sports injuries. He or she may have a background in sports medicine, but may also have experience in treating athletes who injure their knees in running marathons or who tear their hips doing soccer exercises. If you are in pain, but do not play sports, then it is important that you seek out a professional who has experience treating this kind of pain.
One of the differences between physical therapy and physiotherapy is that the latter is focused more on addressing the physiological aspects of the body rather than focusing on rehabilitation of injury. Therefore, the physiotherapist treats issues related to the musculoskeletal system and the function of the spine. Sports medicine doctors, on the other hand, focus more on injuries that occur during athletic events. They may also refer their patients to physical therapy schools or hospitals where these professionals work together with sports medicine specialists.
These differences are nothing new, of course. Many texts have been written about these differences, but understanding them is the first step toward making a positive change in your life. A physical therapy and physiotherapy professional will be able to share with you his or her expertise, and maybe with you his or her own philosophy of change and rehabilitation. Once you know what to expect, you can make an informed decision about choosing a professional who is right for you.