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What to look for when you choose a physical therapist.

How do I check if my physio or massage therapist is qualified and insured ?

If you have aches and pains or want support to help you take good care of your body, there

are many different physical therapists to choose from. You might wonder whether to choose

a physiotherapist or sports therapist or to look for a local masseur. We examine the

differences between different therapists and what to look for when choosing.

What are the legal requirements?

Anyone who wants to practice as a physiotherapist must be registered with the Health and

Care Professionals Council (HCPC). They’re the regulatory body for many health

professionals, including physiotherapists, occupational therapists and paramedics.

Physiotherapists must re-register every two years and complete at least 30 hours of

continuing professional development (CPD). Training can include formal courses, writing

research papers or reflective practice, where you look back at a patient’s care to see what

went well or badly and how you can improve in the future. The HCPC does spot checks to

ensure you’ve done enough and that it’s been spread out rather than clumped together. We

must also have insurance to protect our patients if anything goes wrong.

There are no legal requirements for anyone describing themselves as a massage therapist,

sports therapist, or other type of therapist to be registered with a professional body, have

training, or have insurance.

Other professional bodies

Physiotherapists and other physical therapists can join a professional body if they want to.

This can be great as many professional bodies provide insurance and training. Many

therapists have brilliant training, but is there no legal requirement for them to do so.

There’s the Federation of Holistic Therapists and the Association for Soft Tissue Therapists

(SMA). Our sports therapist, Rosie, is an SMA member with a degree in sports therapy and

soft tissue. Sports therapy can be similar to physiotherapy and achieve great results, but the legal requirements and training can be very different and inconsistent.

Social media marketing

Many professional bodies, such as the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, are more like

unions. They provide insurance, which the HCPC doesn’t. The CSP offers guidance on what

members can and can’t share on social media, which can help you identify people with

voluntary professional memberships. When viewing therapists’ social media, ask whether

they express themselves professionally and maintain appropriate boundaries.

The CSP will investigate if a therapist has breached their social media guidance, for

example, by breaching patient confidentiality. It can become public even if you only have personal social media information

Will your health insurance or health cash plan cover your treatment?

If you have health insurance or a health cash plan your choice of therapist may be restricted by what your insurance will pay for. This may be less of a concern if you want a relaxing massage. However, if you need treatment for a health condition, it makes sense to use your insurance or claim cashback via a cash plan rather than pay out of pocket

Always check the T&C's on your plan to see which therapist it covers.

Check the terms and conditions on your plan to see which therapists it covers. Many plans

require specific qualifications or professional memberships or only cover treatment centres

on their hospital list. The type of therapy a plan covers also varies. Some only pay for physiotherapy, while others will include osteopathy, acupuncture, reflexology or reiki.

Finding a physiotherapist

If you want to find a local physiotherapist, you can search using the HCPC website. If a

friend or relative has recommended a physiotherapist, you can also check their registration

here. The HCPC is similar to the General Medical Council for doctors. They can strike a

physiotherapist off or apply restrictions to their practice and publish details on their website.

The regulations that applied to physiotherapists meant we were able to work during

lockdown when other therapists couldn’t

What to ask when you contact a therapist

If you want to know more about a therapist’s credentials and can’t find anything online or in

their publicly available information, ask to see insurance and ask about training. If they’re

being evasive, that may be a sign that you need to look elsewhere. It’s also important to trust your instincts. You might not need a physiotherapist and would prefer a holistic therapist, but you know if something doesn’t feel right.


Finding the right physiotherapist or physical therapist often depends on the type of

experience you’re looking for. However, there are practical steps you can take to ensure your therapist will help you achieve good results and keep you safe.


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