Exercise Physiologists vs. Physiotherapists vs. Personal Trainers Explained

Most of us have heard of physiotherapists and personal trainers, and likely have a pretty good understanding of what they do. Exercise physiology, on the other hand, is a profession that many haven’t heard of or don’t know much about. Understanding the differences between the three and how they can assist with your treatment or recovery goals is essential.

At Optimise Health, we are fortunate to have both physiotherapists and exercise physiologists on staff to help in the treatment of a variety of conditions. Our team is unique in that they collaborate with each other to ensure that patients receive the very best combination of treatments to help them achieve their health goals. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can be of assistance.

What Does a Physiotherapist Do?  

The role of a physiotherapist is to assess, diagnose, treat, and manage conditions, disabilities, injuries, and disorders that affect the movement and function of the body. Many people visit a physio after they’ve sustained an injury or due to an illness that impacts their normal movement.

They use various physical techniques to improve movement, restore function, reduce pain and stiffness, and help the body recover from injury. Some physical treatment methods could include:

  • Exercise and rehabilitation programs (to help improve mobility and strengthen muscles)
  • Joint manipulation and mobilisation (to reduce pain and stiffness)
  • Soft tissue mobilisation or massage
  • Dry needling

A physiotherapist may also provide behavioural advice, health education and exercise counselling. They’re able to treat a wide range of conditions associated with bones, muscles, nerves, and joints, including:

  • Neck, back, and knee pain
  • Chronic pain and conditions
  • Bone, joint, muscle, and ligament problems
  • General, work or sports-related injuries
  • Rehabilitation post-surgery

What Does an Exercise Physiologist Do?

The role of an exercise physiologist is to prescribe exercise and movement programs. This aids in the prevention and management of chronic diseases and injuries by enhancing the body’s optimal physiological functioning. It can also be used during rehabilitation to restore functionality, as well as bring relief from pain and discomfort.

An exercise physiologist can treat patients who suffer from various medical conditions and injuries, including:

  • Musculoskeletal injuries
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis and osteoporosis
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Heart disease
  • Mental health issues
  • Neuromuscular disorders

An exercise physio may also work with recreational and elite athletes. They will develop a targeted program that aims to improve a person’s athletic potential and enhance performance. Being in top physical condition is important for performance outcomes as well as minimising injury risk.

What Does a Personal Trainer Do?

The role of a personal trainer is to focus on performance exercise, where there aren’t any significant restrictions imposed by either injury or disease. They help clients to identify their personal health and fitness goals, then design exercises and fitness programs to help them effectively reach them. They also provide education and motivation on their journey.

Some people choose to see a trainer because they want to lose weight or get in shape, whereas others choose to see one to keep their bodies active (particularly as they age).

A personal trainer is required to demonstrate or explain how to properly perform exercises and routines in order to minimise injuries and improve fitness. They watch their clients perform exercises to ensure they’re using the proper technique and correct them where necessary.

A trainer will also monitor their clients’ progress, adapting programs as needed to ensure that they continue to reach their health and fitness goals.

Should I see a Physiotherapist, Exercise Physiologist or Personal Trainer?

To ensure that your issue is rectified in a timely manner and that you meet your health or fitness goals, it’s important that you see the right type of professional for your needs.

If you’re experiencing pain that is new, unexpected or hasn’t yet been diagnosed, you’re likely to need a physiotherapist. The same is true if you’ve recently sustained a sports injury or have recently undergone orthopaedic surgery. A physio will be able to provide you with hands-on treatment that deals with the source of your pain.

If you’re recovering from an injury, you have an old injury that you’re worried about aggravating, you suffer from a chronic health condition, you have a weight loss goal, or you want an exercise program to help you meet your health and wellness goals, it’s likely that an exercise physiologist will be able to help.

If you don’t have any injuries, old or new, and if you have a weight loss goal or just want to get in shape, a personal trainer should be able to assist. 

Meeting Your Health and Wellness Goals with Optimise Health

Here at Optimise Health, we offer physiotherapy in Toowoomba and Warwick and exercise physiology services in our clinics. These services may even be able to be used in harmony with each other in order to achieve a better outcome. If you’re experiencing pain or are dealing with an injury, book an assessment with our helpful team today and let us tailor a program that will get you back to normal in no time.


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