When it comes to health and wellness, knowing the right medical professional to visit can help in many ways. Like many other professional fields, the medical field has numerous branches, all working together to ensure that patients are restored to their optimal health condition. However, as with most other professions, the lines may be blurred between the roles of two professionals who are specialized in different fields. Two of those fields in the medical profession are the physiotherapy and exercise physiology fields.
There is often a common problem differentiating who is who and who does what between these two professionals. While the goal may be the same, a physiotherapist takes a different approach to health and wellness when compared to an exercise physiologist. To help you to better clear things up and understand who you should visit, read the detailed breakdown offered by Movement 101 below.
How To Tell The Difference Between A Physiotherapist And An Exercise Physiologist
To better understand the difference between these two professions and professionals, one has to compare both fields. Education-wise, both professions require at least 4 years of university training which encompasses the theoretical and practical aspects of the profession. During the university training, both fields share a common interest in human physiology, anatomy, biomechanics, and more.
Both of these fields are recognized by WorkCover, Medicare, TAC, and private health funds, which means that patients at each professional’s office can access rebates and coverage. In addition, they both require yearly professional development for practitioners to stay up to date with the latest information, practices, and accreditation.
However, the major differences between these two professionals are that it is best to understand the different cycles of injury and how each of the health professionals can help. For differentiation, a person who has sustained a simple ankle joint sprain will be used as an example.
Injury Cycle – Acute Phase
An acute injury or illness is short-lived. In the case of this injury, a simple ankle joint sprain, victims are recommended to visit a physiotherapist who can define management plans that will help to control joint pain and inflammation. The physiotherapist, at this stage, can diagnose the extent of the injury and offer the needed manual therapy that will aid recovery and improve mobility. The physiotherapist may also recommend temporary movement aid like crutches or splints.
Injury Cycle – Recovery Phase
After the acute phase has been carefully attended, the patient, depending on how fast they heal, may have about three to four weeks to heal fully post-injury. This is where an exercise physiologist comes into the picture. An exercise physiologist will introduce exercises that are right for the condition suffered so that the patient can enjoy an increased range of movement, faster recovery, and others. Exercise physiologists also offer help with the restoration of joint mobility, mobilization of soft tissue structure, and strength optimization.
Each of the exercises prescribed by an exercise physiologist is aimed at helping patients to achieve their daily recovery goals while drawing them closer to full recovery.
Why Physiotherapy And Exercise Physiology Is Different
Physiotherapy has been around for a long time. However, exercise physiology is a relatively new medical field. Due to its relative newness, many patients find it difficult to understand what and how these professionals can help. To help patients with a clear distinction of how exercise physiologists help, they need to realize the functions and roles of these professionals. Some of their roles include;
– An exercise psychologist is trained to deliver prescription and education on trigger point therapy and self-massage techniques. They use equipment like trigger point balls and foam rollers to achieve desired results on the other hand. Physiotherapists are trained to deliver soft tissue mobilization using techniques like acupuncture, massages, ultrasounds, and dry needling techniques. They can also prescribe self-massage techniques when required.
– Exercise physiologists are trained to receive a diagnosis -which forms the basis of the treatment plan recommended to patients- and deliver the rehabilitation prognosis. Physiotherapists can carry out their injury diagnosis and prognosis.
Exercise Physiologists major in providing lifestyle education and helping patients make certain lifestyle changes that improve their health and help deal with a wide range of chronic conditions and illnesses like diabetes, cancer, heart diseases, respiratory-related issues, and more. Physiotherapists, however, specialize in the acute phase of the injury but can also deliver long-term rehabilitation where needed.
When Do I Need A Physiotherapist?
You should consult a physiotherapist if you are experiencing pain that is new and not yet diagnosed, when you have suffered a sports injury and have undergone orthopedic surgery, or when you require hands-on pain relief treatments like massages, acupuncture, and manipulation.
When Do I Need An Exercise Physiologist?
You need an exercise physiologist if you are in the recovery stage after suffering an injury. If you are battling with chronic health conditions, if you have a weight loss goal to achieve, and when you seek tailored and prescribed exercise plans to achieve certain health goals.