• Victor Wu RKin MPK BSc BA

Kinesiologist Vs Physiotherapist: What’s The Difference?

At LabMotus Health and Performance Clinic, we have a team of kinesiologists and physiotherapists and we understand that a lot of people might not know the difference between a kinesiologist and a physiotherapist. So, we thought we would outline the differences so you can understand how we can help you.


Kinesiology vs. Physiotherapy: What to Know

  • Differences

  • Similarities

  • About physiotherapy

  • About kinesiology

  • Which to choose?

  • Bottom line


Kinesiology and Physiotherapy are two types of healthcare professions. The goal of both professions is to improve or prevent the worsening of your condition or quality of life due to an injury, surgery, or illness.


While there are some similarities between kinesiology and physiotherapy, there are also key differences. We will take a closer look at both healthcare professions, the benefits they offer, and how they differ from one another.


What are the key differences?


Physiotherapy, also known as physio, focuses on helping improve your movement, mobility, and function. For example, someone who has had knee replacement surgery may visit a physiotherapy as part of their recovery.


The physiotherapy will work with the patient to help strengthen their knee and increase the range of motion in their knee joint. This can help them move more easily with less pain and discomfort.


Kinesiology, also known as kin, focuses on a more holistic approach to healthcare. They are dedicated to getting people to maximize their ability to move and function well throughout their lives. Kinesiologists utilize exercise as a tool to treat and prevent injury, health condition, and improve health and wellness. Kinesiologists address the physiological and biomechanical systems of the body.


The main objective for a kinesiologist is to help you live a more functional and pain free life. It’s best to choose a kinesiologist if you have a health condition, injury or disability you need help dealing with as they can help you improve your fitness and mobility.


What are the similarities?


Despite their differences, there are some ways that physio and kin are similar. These include:

  • Overall purpose. Physio and kin both aim to improve your overall functioning, quality of life, and knowledge about how to maintain your health and well-being.

  • Conditions. There’s considerable overlap with the health conditions for which both therapies may be recommended.

  • Design. Both types of therapy provide hands-on care that’s tailored to the patient’s specific needs.

  • Tasks. There can be some overlap in the tasks performed. For example, kinesiologists may also teach stretches or exercises. a physiotherapist may work on movements to help with daily activities, such as getting in and out of the tub.

  • Goals and monitoring. Both types of therapy set goals and assess your progress as you work to achieve them.


What does a physiotherapist do?


Now that we’ve discussed the differences and similarities between physio and kin, let’s break down what a physiotherapist does in more detail.


What are the goals of physiotherapy?


The overall goals of physio focus on:

  • improving or restoring movement, strength, and range of motion

  • decreasing pain

  • preventing your condition from getting worse


When is physiotherapy needed?


Physio is often recommended when an acute condition affects your movement or range of motion. Physio can be used for:

  • improving mobility after an injury

  • recovery following a surgical procedure

  • pain management

  • joint conditions, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis

  • neurological conditions, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and recovery after a stroke

  • hand conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger finger


What type of care can you expect?


The type of therapy you’ll receive will be tailored to your specific needs. The physiotherapy will carefully review your medical history and current health condition to develop a plan and goals for your therapy.


Physiotherapists use a variety of techniques, including:

  • massage

  • application of hot and cold

  • ultrasound

  • electrical stimulation

  • stretching

  • hands-on manipulation

  • targeted rehab exercises


What does a kinesiologist do?


Now let’s look at kin a little more closely and what it entails.


What are the goals of kinesiology?


The overarching goals of kin are to:

  • use exercise in the management of injury and chronic disease

  • improve your performance, health, and overall quality of life

  • maximize your ability to safely and effectively perform various daily tasks

  • promote independence and productivity

  • educating you on ways to maintain your overall fitness and functionality


When is kinesiology needed?


Kinesiology is the scientific study of human movement, performance and function. The practice of kinesiology incorporates the sciences of biomechanics, anatomy and physiology, and considers neuroscience and psychosocial factors. Kins use evidence-based research to treat and prevent injury and disease, and to improve movement and performance. Kins work with people of all ages and physical abilities in many settings to help them achieve their health and wellness goals and improve quality of life. Some areas of kinesiology practice include:

  • clinical kinesiology services

  • musculoskeletal assessment

  • postural evaluation and education

  • rehabilitative and functional retraining exercise

  • fitness conditioning for weight loss, cardiovascular training, and muscular development

  • diabetes management strategies

  • cardiac rehabilitation

  • cancer rehabilitation

  • stroke rehabilitation

  • mental health management

  • corporate wellness program design and implementation

  • assessment services

  • functional ability evaluation

  • return-to-work coordination and implementation

  • case/program management

  • automobile accident or disability claims management

  • gait assessment

  • sport and exercise related injury assessment

  • ergonomics

  • task analysis

  • physical demands description / analysis

  • musculoskeletal disorder hazard and risk assessment

  • office and industrial workstation (re)design

  • job shadowing/coaching

  • work hardening programs


What type of care can you expect?


The kinesiology will review your medical history and your condition to determine what your needs are. Then, they’ll use this information to develop a care plan and set specific goals.

Some of the things that may be involved as part of kin include:

  • take a complete health history and find out your goals or objectives.

  • conduct an assessment. the assessments differ based on why you are seeing a kinesiologist. some typical assessments include strength and flexibility testing, cardiovascular testing, gait assessment, cognitive psychometric evaluation or a physical demands analysis.

  • discuss the findings of the assessment with you.

  • propose a personalized treatment plan that will meet your goals or objectives.

  • obtain consent for the treatment plan and for fees and method of billing.

  • regularly measure your progress and adjust the treatment plan as needed.

  • provide advice and education regarding your health.

  • keep a record of the care provided and ensure your personal health information is kept secure and confidential.

  • collaborate with other health professionals as appropriate.


Which profession to choose?


So how do you know which type of profession is right for you? That depends on your condition and your specific needs.


If you have an acute condition that’s affecting your ability to walk or move a body part without pain, you may want to consider a physiotherapy. They can work with you to reduce pain, improve your mobility, strength, and range of motion.


Or maybe you’ve chronic injury or health condition affecting your quality of life. In this case, working with a kinesiologist could help with developing a management strategy to improve your quality of life.


It’s important to talk to your doctor about the type of therapy that’s right for you. They can help advise you on the benefits of each therapy, and which one is right for your specific needs.


The bottom line


Physiotherapy (physio) and kinesiology (kin) are types of healthcare. While they have similar goals and treat many of the same conditions, they also differ. Both professions focus on restoring or improving movement, strength, and range of motion, but a physiotherapist uses more passive techniques (example: manual therapy) while a kinesiologist uses more active techniques (example: exercise therapy).


Which type of therapy you choose depends on your specific condition and individual needs. Working closely with your doctor can help you decide which therapy is best suited to you and your goals.


Overall, there is some overlap between a kinesiologist and physiotherapist, but depending on your issue there is one you should see over another. If you are looking for a kinesiologist or a physiotherapist, LabMotus Health and Performance Clinic has what you’re looking for! Contact us to find out more about our kinesiology services.


Sources*:

  1. College of Kinesiologists of Ontario. (n.d.). https://www.coko.ca/patients-and-clients/about-kinesiology/

  2. Hu, G., Lindström, J., Valle, T. T., Eriksson, J. G., Jousilahti, P., Silventoinen, K., Qiao, Q., & Tuomilehto, J. (2004). Physical activity, body mass index, and risk of type 2 diabetes in patients with normal or impaired glucose regulation. Archives of internal medicine, 164(8), 892–896. https://doi.org/10.1001/archinte.164.8.892

  3. Physical rehabilitation at the hospital. (n.d.). hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/physical-rehabilitation-at-the-hospital

  4. Physical therapists. (2020). bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm

  5. Rizzo A. (2016). The Role of Exercise and Rehabilitation in the Cancer Care Plan. Journal of the advanced practitioner in oncology, 7(3), 339–342. https://doi.org/10.6004/jadpro.2016.7.3.20

  6. Role of a physical therapist. (2019). apta.org/PTCareers/RoleofaPT/

  7. Ruth L Chimenti, Laura A Frey-Law, Kathleen A Sluka, A Mechanism-Based Approach to Physical Therapist Management of Pain, Physical Therapy, Volume 98, Issue 5, May 2018, Pages 302–314, https://doi.org/10.1093/ptj/pzy030


*LabMotus has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations.



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