If I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked what the difference between Physiotherapy and Sports Therapy I would be finding it easier to pay the rather large bill from my recent wedding! So where does the confusion come from and what difference does it make to you, the paying customer? Read on…
As a Sports Therapist I frequently get referred to as a Physio or Sports Physio and everyone says “I’m just off for my Physio session.” Mostly because saying “I’m currently attending my Sports Therapy appointment” is just a bit of a mouthful! But how do we define the difference? Let’s start by defining the two professions.
What Is Physiotherapy?
Now I should know! But I thought I’d better check the oracle of information that is Wikipedia to give some sort of definition. If you do go to the trouble of clicking the link then the word Physiotherapist and Physical Trainer is interchangeable.
If you don’t then to paraphrase “Physiotherapy is a rehabilitation profession that promotes improvement in quality of life through diagnosis, examination and treatment.”
What Is Sports Therapy?
So lets do the same for Sports Therapy. Again I REALLY should know this one! But let’s do this properly. Here’s a link to our governing bodies page on the definition. For those too lazy to reach for the mouse or read the whole page – and I will forgive you for this as it does go on a bit (!) I’ll do another summary from which we can work.
“Sports Therapy is concerned with prevention, rehabilitation and treatment of the patient back to optimum occupational and / or sport specific fitness.”
Hmmm, I don’t know about you but it looks quite similar. Lets look at the origin of Sports Therapy and see if that makes things any clearer.
Where It All Started
So Sports Therapy in the UK was the brainchild of Professor Graham Smith – who happens to be a Physiotherapist! The idea was to “address the growing demands from sport and leisure on everyone involved in the management and care of injured participants.” Now that’s straight from the Society’s website. One could read that as filling the gap for people waiting for an NHS Physio! That is of course just an opinion or an idea – please don’t shoot me, lock me up or burn me at the stake for expressing such a thought – it is exactly that! If you visualise me currently walking on eggshells you’d be about right.
Graham was, and still is, a great advocate of hands on treatment. Looking for what we as therapists can do to help you as our patient. The NHS at the time was moving ever more towards hands off exercise based rehab. Which of course is great (any cracked eggs yet?) but when you combine the hands on work with complimentary rehabilitation exercises as Graham taught me, things just seems to move along a whole lot better – at least that’s my experience.
It’s the same with everything in life I find. If you have one camp vehemently convinced their way is the only way. And another with completely opposed views, the truth usually lies somewhere in between. That is why these days I don’t get caught up in the origin of the technique, or who and what discipline it belongs to. Simply whether is works or not and helps make people feel better. That currently incorporates exercise based rehab (when appropriate), hands on joint mobilisation, muscles activation, myofascial release and Sports Massage. Whatever is most appropriate for the individual and the condition they have.
So Is A Sports Therapist Effectively A Physio?
Oh that’s torn it. Eggshells all over the place! And the society quite rightly points this out on their website.
Sports Therapists are not Physiotherapists, but Sports Therapists will apply “physiotherapy” skills because physiotherapy is defined as “the treatment of injury by physical methods including massage and exercise rather than drugs or surgery.”
I’m glad we cleared that one up! We can hold the law suits now.
Why the ‘Sport’ in Sports Therapy?
This is a really interesting one and causes us all kinds of problems in terms of who we as Sports Therapists, rather than Physiotherapists, can help. The word “Sport” in the therapy comes from the underlying principle that we are looking to improve people’s sporting performance. Specifically in our case from an injured state to a non-injured state.
Now of course your non-sporty types can have the same injuries as sporting people. We are at the end of the day made of the same stuff. Equally, the treatments and techniques we use work on non-athletes just as much as athletes. It may be that your “improvement in performance” maybe being able to walk the dog or get out of bed in the morning without making old man / lady noises!
We’re often asked “I don’t do Sport, can I still come and see you?” And that’s the people who aren’t put off by the word Sport and don’t even contact us in the first place. For the record. Of course you can!
So What IS the Difference?
As a rule of thumb I’d say that Physiotherapy is a bit more medical. By that I mean if you’ve had a serious medical condition say a heart attack, a stroke or some kind of respiratory condition then your immediate care needs to be carried out by a Physiotherapist. As Sports Therapists we are not trained to help you in your initial recovery. That’s not to say we can’t help further on down the line of course.
Us Sports Therapists tend to specialise more on the injuries side of things. But that’s not to say Physiotherapists can’t or don’t. Equally any kind of neurological condition (stuff involving nerves) in theory should be within the realms of a physiotherapist. However, the way in which our treatments as Sports Therapists work we can have a very profound affect on neurological conditions.
The biggest difference is that Sports Therapist cannot claim to be Physiotherapists. And rightly so. There are particular medical conditions that you should most definitely see a Physiotherapist over a Sports Therapist. However, most of the conditions you would normally associate with needing to go see a Physio about, are more than likely something we can help with. If you’re not sure just give us a ring, we’re very friendly and don’t bite! We’re also very honest and if we can’t help we’ll happily point you in the direction of someone who can – physiotherapist or otherwise.
What Difference Does It Make To Me?!
Well if truth be told absolutely none! After all that writing as well. The main thing is that you find a Therapist that you like and trust. Whether that’s a Sports Therapist or a Physiotherapist really doesn’t matter. So long as they care about your condition and doing everything they can to fix your problem.
If you’d like more advice on how to pick a therapist from the various disciplines you can check out our previous Blog post here. If there’s anything you’d like to know if we can help you with then please give us a call and we’ll tell you what we can do to help you out. or mail us at info@BrightonSportsTherapy.co.uk.
This post first appeared on our Swindon website.