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What’s the difference between a physiotherapist and a sports therapist ?

Sports Therapy and Physiotherapy share many similarities... so which should you choose ?

If you need treatment for an injury or pain that won’t go away, many different treatment options are available. If you’ve seen someone describing themselves as a sports therapist, you might have wondered if they could help you or whether you’d be better off with a physiotherapist.

The short answer is that while there are differences between a physiotherapist and a sports therapist, there’s also a lot of overlap. They each use similar techniques, and their main aim is to get you back to being healthy and pain-free. That said, there are a few things that could influence your choice.


Are the qualifications for a sports therapist different from a physiotherapist?

Yes, the legal status of a physiotherapist is different from that of a sports therapist. In theory, anyone can call themselves a sports therapist, but physiotherapist is a protected title regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council. In practice, many sports therapists are just as highly qualified as physiotherapists. For example, our sports therapist, Rosie, has a degree, is part of a professional association and holds full professional insurance, just as our physiotherapists do.

However, most private health insurers won’t pay for treatment with sports therapists. So if you’re paying with health insurance, you might only be able to choose physiotherapy.


Physiotherapists and sports therapists offer a lot of the same types of treatment. The main aim of both professions is to aid your physical recovery and get you moving again. That means both will use hands-on therapy to assess and treat you. That will often include massage and movement and follow-up exercises to keep you moving at home.

There are a couple of treatments that physiotherapists can sometimes provide that sports therapists often don’t, such as acupuncture and physical manipulation ( the kind of movement that makes your joints click ). Some physiotherapists also specialise in treating particular conditions, for example, neurological and respiratory conditions.

" Physios and Sports therapists offer similar types of treatments "

Do you have to be an athlete to see a sports therapist?

NO ! Sports therapy isn’t just for sporty people. You don’t need to be training for a marathon or aiming for the Olympics to see a sports therapist. The title distinguishes a sports therapist from other types of therapists, for example, someone who helps you with a mental health issue.

You can see a sports therapist for any condition causing pain or restricted movement. For example, it might help you get back to taking your dog for long walks or feel more comfortable sitting at your desk.

Can a sports therapist help with my rehab?

Sports therapists do a lot of rehabilitation work, but there are some circumstances where a physiotherapist might be a better choice. One of the main differences between a sports therapist and a physiotherapist is that a physio’s approach is often more medical. A physiotherapist may be a better choice if you’ve had a hip replacement or are recovering from a fracture. It’s a good idea to have an initial assessment with a physiotherapist if you have a complex medical history or are taking multiple medications.

A sports therapist can help you when you’re recovering from an injury and can also support you in improving your posture to help you prevent problems in the future

Follow up appointments?

Whether you see a physio or a sports therapist, you will get homework; nobody leaves without exercises. You might be offered the option to switch from a physiotherapist to a sports therapist or vice versa if your therapist deems it best fro you. For example, a physio might carry out your initial assessment but ask if you’d like to see a sports therapist if they think their skills are more suited to help. You can stick with the physiotherapist if you prefer.

Equally, if you’ve been seeing a sports therapist, they may think you’ll benefit from a treatment they can’t offer, such as acupuncture. If your progress has stalled or you need further investigation, they might suggest you see a physiotherapist for a second opinion. We often cross-refer people within the clinic to give them the best chance of a full recovery.


f you have pain or an injury, you can see a physiotherapist or a sports therapist for treatment, as they use similar techniques. We can also assess you and make suggestions for your future treatment based on your individual needs and medical history. Physiotherapy and sports therapy have the same aims; to help you live a full and healthy life

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