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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is the difference between physiotherapist and exercise therapist?

    If I have a tendinopathy (tendinitis) as well as ganglions in both my hands and arms. Whom should I see - a physiotherapist or an exercise therapist?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 20

    Thanks

    Naomi Watts

    Exercise Physiologist

    Hi, my name is Naomi Watts. I am an ESSA Accredited Exercise Physiologist at Iridium as well as Sporting Wheelies and a Respiratory Scientist at … View Profile

    An Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) is an allied health professional who specialises in administering exercise as a health solution or treatment.  A physiotherapist would usually deal with the acute phase of an injury, whereas an AEP manages the sub-acute phase or long term functional management.  There are many grey areas where these two professions can overlap however, physiotherapists specialise in the hands-on manipulation of the body to facilitate healing whereas an AEP will prescribe exercises to facilitate a return to functional capacity.

  • 4

    Thanks

    Davide de Sousa

    Physiotherapist

    Interests and expertise in neurological and musculoskeletal rehabilitation. Currently conducting research in Stroke rehabilitation. View Profile

    Thank you for your response to this post Naomi. I would like to add and clarify some things for the person asking the question. To answer the second half of the question you should consult a sports or musculoskeletal Physiotherapist who will assess your tendonitis and treat it. This may be with gentle exercise or other means. If your pain is not improving after a few treatment sessions then it might be that Physiotherapy is not the answer for you and you need a referral to a medical professional who can assess whether surgery is appropriate. I would consult the Australian Physiotherapy Association for a list of APA Titled or Specialist Physios who have demonstrated their expertise to be titled. 

    To resond to the first part of your question, Physiotherapists are trained to assess, diagnose and treat many conditions. They will use a variety of different treatment modalities including manual therapy, electrotherapy, exercise and more often alternative therapies. Most people see musculoskeletal or sports Physiotherapy clinics in the community, however Physios work in many different environments, hospitals, labs, clinics, sports teams and in the community. Depending on the environment depends on what conditions are treated and at what stages acute - chronic. Contrary to what Naomi and surprisingly a lot of AEPs believe, Physiotherapists do manage chronic conditions. I am one of them. I work in a sub-acute hospital and we have a team of Physiotherapists who manage people months after discharge into the community. We do find that AEPs tend to work in community gyms so we will refer to them when our service can no longer carry a patient or they need to intergrate more into the community. This is not because Physios cannot manage them but rather because of current structure of our health service. 

  • 1

    Thanks

    Jane Watson

    Physiotherapist

    Jane Watson is a leading physiotherapist based in the Upper North Shore servicing locations like Wahroonga, Pymble, Turramurra, Gordon, Thornleigh and surrounding suburbs. Jane's approach … View Profile

    I do not have extensive knowledge of the training involved in becoming an exercise therapist, but I believe that a physiotherapist would have more knowledge and experience in dealing with specific health conditions and injuries, which means that they would be more suitable for recommending exercises to someone who has a muscular-skeletal complaint.

  • 2

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    Anonymous

    In answer to your question. You would be best to see a Physiotherapist for your injury .

    A physiotherpaist is able to diagnose the cause of your injury which a Exercise physiologist (EP) cannot do as it is outside their scope of practice. Because a Physio can diagnose they have a greater knowledge of why the injury occured and therefore what treatment is best.

    An EP is able to prescribe exercises if this is required, using the assessment and diagnosis from a Physiotherapist.

  • 15

    Thanks

    Ian Montgomery

    Exercise Physiologist

    Experienced exercise physiologist specialising in musculoskeletal rehabilitation. With over 10 years experience working with clients returning to work after injuries I offer specialised physical conditioning … View Profile

    As with any profession the training and expertise can vary widely. My training as an exercise physiologist including a post graduate component dedicated to musculoskeletal rehabilitation - including assessing injuries. I have known of student physiotherapists who have used the content of the post graduate course i completed as study material for their musculoskeletal physiotherapy. While physiotherapists have a wider knowledge and underastanding of treatment modialties and manual therapy skills, and spend more time in their training focused on the assessment and diagnosis of injuries, exercise physiologists spend 3-4 years specialising solely in the understanding of the anatomy and physiology of healthy and injured poplutations and the physiological adaptations to training and exercise. Our specialty is in exercise prescription with a strong emphasis on injured populations. As this is our sole treatment modality we only focus our training on the use of exercise to treat a wide range of chronic and acute conditions and injuries.

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