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What is a Physiotherapist?

A physiotherapist (physio or physiotherapy specialist) is a highly-educated healthcare professional focusing on both the management and prevention of pain, injury, disability and impairment.

They see people of all ages, backgrounds and experiences, with a focus on improving their health and achieving their goals through evidence-based treatment.

If you are looking for a Physio, make a booking with our PridePlus Physiotherapists in Pascoe Vale here.

What is the role of a Physiotherapist?

Essentially to help people improve function by better managing pain, preventing disease and improving performance. This can range from an elite athlete reaching their sporting potential to the elderly being able to safely walk.

There is a large focus on empowering people to be healthy through education, exercise and lifestyle modification.

A Physiotherapist will help you to better help yourself, by teaching you lifelong healthy habits.

As a primary contact health professional, there is also a role in the differential diagnosis of conditions that masquerade as musculoskeletal problems. Physios are highly-skilled in this and appropriately refer on to other medical disciplines such as doctors, surgeons and psychologists.

physiotherapy for back pain

How do you become a Physiotherapist

A Physiotherapist must have:

  • Completed a Bachelor, Masters or Doctorate degree at a university, which will have taken at least four years to complete.
  • Registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency.
  • Met the professional standards, such as recent work as a physiotherapist.
  • Continued professional development.
  • Criminal history checks.
  • Worked in accordance with the Board’s Code of Conduct.
  • Cover by professional indemnity insurance.

Is a Physiotherapist a doctor?

NO, a physiotherapist is not a doctor.

They are health and wellbeing advocates via education, exercise and a range of other treatments.

They do not prescribe medication or perform invasive procedures.

Some people study a Doctorate 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 essentially a slightly different name for a physiotherapist in America and Canada. In Australia, a physiotherapist (or physio) is the only term used.

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

In one word - lots!


Physiotherapy is an evidence-based health profession, meaning they are required to use the best available and up to date evidence in order to educate and treat their clients.

The overall aim is to facilitate people to achieve goals and performance levels where physiotherapy is no longer needed.


Chiropractors 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.


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.

The take-home message:

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.

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