What’s the difference? Part two

In part one of What’s the difference we discussed the similarities and the differences between Physiotherapists, Chiropractors and Osteopaths. If you hadn’t had a chance to read that one head on over to my blog section and cast your eye over it.

In this instalment we’ll be looking at Sports Therapists, PTs and Massage Therapists before summarising all 6 professions.

Sports Therapy

The Society of Sports Therapists describe sports therapy as a fairly new concept (only 28 years old at the time of writing) which encompasses principles of sports and exercise science in order to assess and rehabilitate people. They firmly advise that Sports Therapists are NOT Physiotherapists but that they will apply Physiotherapy principles (1). Indeed, Sports Therapy, taught at college level in Scotland, is a pre-entry course which will allow a fast track in to Physiotherapy at University.

It is difficult to see what a session with a Sports Therapist includes but from the information available it can be deduced that you will receive an assessment prior to specific exercise based rehab alongside manual therapy skills.

Sports Therapists do not have the wide and in depth medical knowledge that a Physiotherapist possesses but they do have good knowledge of sport specific rehabilitation (2). Indeed, in a sporting environment, the Sports Therapist will be part of the multidisciplinary team which includes the Physiotherapist, Sports Physician and Strength and Conditioning Coach.

Sports Therapists are not a recognised healthcare professional in the NHS and are often not recognised by insurance companies either.

Personal Trainer

The National Federation of Personal Trainers describe Personal Trainers as fitness professionals with a specific interest in body composition be that for the purpose of losing weight or attaining performance related goals (3). Personal Trainers are not thoroughly equipped to deal with injury rehabilitation unless they have undertaken extra qualifications to enable them to do so – Level 4 trainers for example.

A Personal Trainer will NOT complete a thorough assessment to fully understand your injury. Their sessions will involve a consultation initially to understand what your goals are in terms of body composition and they will likely ask if you have any pre-existing injuries but they are NOT the best people to assist you in rehabilitation. In fact, the National Federation of Personal Trainers specifically lists: DO NOT GIVE MEDICAL ADVICE, PHYSICAL THERAPY ADVICE OR ATTEMPT TO MAKE A DIAGNOSIS as part of the responsibilities that a Personal Trainer must follow (3).

Yes, Personal Trainers will take you through exercise and are indeed registered through REPS or CIMSPA in the UK (4,5). But that does not mean that they have the training and skills necessary to assess you and provide you with an appropriate treatment plan to rehabilitate your injury. IF you are receiving medical or physiotherapy advice from your Trainer then you are well within your rights to question this and ask for a copy of their qualifications.

As per the Sports Therapist, Personal Trainers are NOT a recognised healthcare provider within the NHS and, for the purposes of injury rehab, you cannot receive a referral to a Personal Trainer on the NHS or via your insurance company.

Massage Therapists

A Massage Therapist is someone who specialises in massage. They have some training in soft tissue manipulation and they apply this knowledge to provide relaxation to the tissues. There are many different forms of massage ranging from sports to hot stones. There is not a specific register for Massage Therapists to be governed by but you can find someone local to you through local directories (6).

Sessions tend to include a chat regarding what brought you to the session before you are asked to lie down and the treatment begins. Massage Therapists do not possess the necessary skills to accurately assess and rehabilitate your injury without further training. If your Massage Therapist is attempting to do so, you are well within your rights to ask to see their qualifications in the field.

Massage Therapists, like the Sports Therapist and Personal Trainer, are NOT recognised medical professionals in the NHS in the UK nor are they offered as part of your insurance package.


So, overall, we have Physiotherapists, Chiropractors, Osteopaths, Sports Therapists, Personal Trainers and Massage Therapists that we have discussed in What’s the difference part one and two. As we have learned, the only professions who have the knowledge to provide assessment and treatment are Physiotherapists, Osteopaths, Chiropractors and, to a degree, Sports Therapists. However, the ONLY profession which prides itself on SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN METHODS is Physiotherapy. Sports Therapists touch on the evidence through the exercise rehabilitation that they provide but they do not have the in depth knowledge to back up their reasoning that a Physiotherapist has.

As with all professionals, the decision lies with you. You are well within your rights to ask ANY of the people listed above to provide you with their qualifications prior to receiving any assessment or treatment. There are specific registers for you to check whether your treatment provider is registered with their governing body and if they’re not steer far clear!!

I hope you’ve found this helpful. I’m open to your opinion and your thoughts on the matter and I’m keen to know what you think. Drop me a line in the comment section below or get in touch via the contact section of the website.

Chat soon =]


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