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Physiotherapy vs Kinesiotherapy or Kinesiology

Physiotherapy and kinesiotherapy/kinesiology are both disciplines that involve movement and exercise, but while physiotherapy focuses on restoring physical function and mobility after injury or illness, kinesiotherapy/kinesiology focuses on optimizing physical performance and preventing injury.

Physiotherapy vs Kinesiotherapy

Kinesiologist and Physiotherapist - Both Specialists in Human Movement and Physical and Occupational Therapy

In a health care setting, there are many types of physical therapy able to help you achieve optimal health and wellness.

Just as a dentist and an orthodontist are similar in that they both work with teeth; they are also very different in what they do with teeth.

Similarly, a Kinesiologist and Physiotherapist are both physical therapists that work with the human body and body movement, but they also do very different types of physical therapy. Read below to learn more.

What is Physiotherapy?

A Physiotherapist, also known as a Physical Therapist, is a regulated health professional that usually works in a clinical or hospital setting performing physical therapy.

Physiotherapists work to restore function and mobility and reduce pain after injury or disease. Physical therapists have in-depth knowledge of injury and movement mechanics, which they use to diagnose and treat existing issues.

Some Physiotherapists will use manual therapy techniques and physical rehabilitation through a tailored exercise plan carried out at home, while others will use more passive treatment modalities to treat their clients, such as ultrasound therapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and acupuncture.

While there are many different types of Physiotherapy including Neurological, Cardiorespiratory, Burn Victim and Pediatric, this article will focus on Orthopedic Physiotherapy and its comparison to Kinesiology.

Conditions Treated by Orthopedic Physiotherapists (Physical Therapists)

  • chronic pain and chronic diseases
  • car accident injuries
  • sports injuries
  • lifestyle injuries
  • workplace injuries
  • health and wellness


In Canada, Physiotherapists must complete a four years of a bachelor's degree program, plus a 2-year Master's Degree in Physiotherapy. They must then become registered in their provincial college, such as the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario and maintain this registration to work as a Physiotherapist.

physical therapist

What is Kinesiology?

A Kinesiologist is also a regulated health professional who works in more of a gym or clinical setting with the purpose of optimizing health and wellness. They are also often called Personal Trainers and can sometimes be certified clinical exercise physiologist. Practitioners of Kinesiology serve complementary purposes to Physiotherapists in the field of physical therapy, which means they can work together to provide the best possible outcome for a patient. Kinesiologists have a very strong background in exercise science and the human body and tend to use more of an active approach to their treatment, combining many different approaches in restoring movement and function.

Kinesiologists are experts in the study of human movement and programming individualized exercise plans for their clients. They tend to have all sorts of clients, with specific fitness or lifestyle goals. The main goal of a Kinesiologist is to improve physical abilities, prevent injuries and help their clients live a pain free life. Additionally, Registered Kinesiologists help their patients improve key fitness aspects, such as muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance, allowing them to excel above their current fitness level.

Reasons to See a Registered Kinesiologist

  • lose weight
  • help with using protective equipment
  • rehabilitation following a car accident
  • in conjunction with occupational therapy to set up proper ergonomics for job duties or lifestyle and exercises to support them
  • personal training and individualized care
  • improvement in sport, fitness, job duties or lifestyle activities
  • restore function after injury, medical issues, or disease to return to job duties or sport
  • active rehab after therapy process
  • increase physical strength or cardiovascular fitness
  • prescriptive processes and exercises to improve function and prevent injury
  • health and wellness


To become a certified exercise physiologist or a Kinesiologist, you must have a four-year undergraduate degree in Kinesiology or Human Kinetics, the scientific study of human movement, a branch of physical medicine. The course work has a strong exercise physiology component and many Kinesiologists also become exercise physiologists. To become registered in Ontario, you must then pass a registered exam to become a Registered Kinesiologist in the College of Kinesiologists of Ontario and maintain this annually to work as a Registered Kinesiologist.

physical therapist

How do their treatments differ?

Even though a Kinesiologist and Physiotherapist may both work in health and wellness, they are still very different health professionals. There are some key differences that you should consider when choosing what is right for you.

Some of the main differences between a Kinesiologist and Physiotherapist include:

Treatment times

Physiotherapists often offer a shorter treatment time, whereas the exercise instruction that comes from Kinesiologists tends to make for a longer treatment time.

Treatment Techniques

A Kinesiologist and Physiotherapist are both physical therapists that provide different treatments working towards a common goal of health optimization.

Physiotherapists tend to diagnose injuries and use passive manual techniques and other passive treatments along with advanced rehabilitation physical therapy. This includes recommended at home exercises to help their patients heal from injury and return to their normal active lifestyle. They sometimes use medical equipment such as ultrasound therapy and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machines.

Kinesiologists do not diagnose injuries. They can help treat existing injuries or movement dysfunction through therapist assisted stretching techniques but tend to do less other passive treatments and passive manual techniques. They tend to do more active treatments, working with patients to provide treatment plans focused on physical and occupational therapy and active rehab. They work with you through good health or poor, with or without injury to help achieve the best outcome related to injury recovery, physical rehabilitation, injury prevention, sports performance, and maintenance of daily activities.

Both types of health professionals can work closely with other health professionals, such as each other, your physician, Occupational Therapy practitioner or Massage Therapist to help you achieve all your goals.


The goals of a Physiotherapist or Physical Therapist tend to include:

  • Injury recovery
  • Injury prevention
  • Pain reduction
  • Overall body maintenance
  • Health and well being

The goals of a Kinesiologist can be a wide range including:

  • physical strength
  • cardiovascular endurance
  • healthier body
  • health and well being
  • patient's mobility
  • helping patients lose weight


Physiotherapists are physical therapists that tend to work with multiple clients in clinical settings, hospital settings, retirement residences and sometimes in personal sessions in patient's homes.

Kinesiologists work with multiples clients in athletic facilities, fitness centers, private clinics, retirement residences, child development centers or personal sessions in patient's homes.

Cost and Insurance

In some settings Kinesiology rates will be lower than Physiotherapy rates, depending on the qualifications of each. Kinesiology services, however, are not as often covered by insurance as Physiotherapy services.

physical therapy

Which one do you need out of a Kinesiologist and Physiotherapist?

Physiotherapy and Kinesiology are forms of physical therapy serve complimentary purposes in the health field. However, there are some main differences in how these physical therapists work that may cause you to choose one over the other. Other times, you may choose to work with to receive complimentary treatment approaches.

If you have an injury or pain, including chronic pain that requires diagnosis and a treatment plan, you may want to consider Physiotherapy.

If you want to work on your fitness for sport, work or life and restore function or work on better movement mechanics, you may want to choose Kinesiology.

Physiotherapy and Kinesiology at Inertia Physio+ - your Kanata Physiotherapy and Kinesiology Specialists

At Inertia Physio+, we have many therapists with a variety of backgrounds from which to choose. We are a clinic owned by a husband and wife team of an Athletic Therapist/Kinesiologist and Physiotherapist. The clinic was built on the concept of providing both services along with Massage Therapy with one team of professionals, who can work together to meet all your needs.

Our Physiotherapy team is strong with some having Kinesiology as their undergraduate degree and/or a strong exercise science background.

We also offer Athletic Therapy with clinical Kinesiology treatment in the clinic as well as the option of working with a Kinesiologist in a gym or home setting through our relationships with community Kinesiologists. With our in-clinic Kinesiology being offered by an Athletic Therapist, you will find this service much more like Physiotherapy than is typical, as both forms of physical therapy provide injury assessment and treatment. Our community associations with gym-based Kinesiologists also allows you access to the fitness and exercise program side of Kinesiology.

If you are interested in these two forms of physical therapy, check out our website to learn more or call, email, or book online today to book an appointment with either a Physiotherapist or Kinesiologist!


Phone: 613-672-2200


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