What's the difference between a Kinesiologist and Physiotherapist in Vancouver?

Young woman personal trainer with brown hair with with an older male client using dumbbells in a gym in Yaletown, Vancouver.

Maybe one day you realize an old sports injury has been affecting your mobility. Or you've noticed that life has become so busy, and work so stressful, that your physique and physical strength is declining. Perhaps you were in a car accident and though you no longer require acute care, you still deal with ongoing physical issues.

In any of these cases, you may be thinking about seeing a Kinesiologist or a Physiotherapist in Vancouver. During this search, you may also be asking yourself, what is the difference between the two and which is the right one for me?

What are Kinesiology and Physiotherapy?

Before looking at the important question of differences, let’s first find out what these two disciplines focus on.

Physiotherapy is the holistic application of movement sciences. A physiotherapist goes through years of schooling to treat patients who suffer from function or mobility issues. These can be due to injury, illness, surgery, or even chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, and others. A physiotherapist’s treatments are prescribed with the aim of helping the body heal.

Kinesiology is the study of human movement. A Kinesiologist uses their deep understanding of anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, psychomotor behaviour, and other fields to improve human function and performance. Kinesiologists treat health and performance issues with the aim of optimizing the body’s potential.

A Kinesiologist’s expertise applies to a range of applications. They often design ergonomic workstations, ensuring the best physiological health for employees.

Both practitioners have spent years learning about how the human body moves, and are skilled in therapeutic exercises. Both are regulated health professions. Kinesiologists, however, look to optimize the body’s performance, overcome longstanding injuries and reduce chronic pain through exercise and movement. In contrast, a physiotherapist directs their attention to helping clients heal from an acute injury or recurring flare-ups.

Terms for these professions vary regionally. This post applies to kinesiologists and physiotherapists in Vancouver.

Where do they Work?

Physiotherapists can generally be found in private clinics or working through home care services and hospitals. They can diagnose injuries or other medical afflictions and provide prescriptive measures to address them. Their services are also connected to retirement residences and child development centers. Here they work to increase the quality of life for seniors and children, respectively.

Kinesiology is practiced in a broader context. Kinesiologists work not only on preventative care and rehabilitation but also on performance. This means that they are not only in clinics, but can be mobile and often work in gyms, studios, or other athletic facilities where long-term performance and health is the intention. In each setting, Kinesiologists are able to offer recommendations on exercises or techniques which will allow clients to achieve their stated health objectives.

Other industries put a Kinesiologist’s expertise to use in a wide array of applications. For example, Kinesiologists design ergonomic workstations for offices, ensuring the best physiological health for their employees.

How Much Attention do they Give?

Physiotherapy is most utilized in a clinic setting where a physiotherapist sometimes takes on multiple clients within one session. This results in a reduced one on one treatment time for any individual. Sessions are commonly 30 minutes. 

Within a clinical setting, Kinesiologists typically work in one on one sessions with clients. This generally allows for longer, more individualized care when compared to a physiotherapist. The same applies to fitness training where Kinesiologists often work with anyone with fitness goals. Kinesiologists are as comfortable training amateur or professional athletes as training working professionals and retirees. In this setting, personal training can last around 60 minutes.

How do Their Treatments Differ?

Physiotherapist and Kinesiology serve complementary purposes with different focuses and hence they provide different treatments.

Young man in pain with a bandage around his knee who needs rehabilitation from an injury in Yaletown, Vancouver

Physiotherapists generally concentrate on diagnosing medical issues and planning restorative care in a clinical setting. They assess, diagnose, and treat patients with passive manual techniques such as massage, mobilization, and manipulation.

Other passive treatments include dry needling, ultrasound therapy, and TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). Many of their prescriptive processes are based on assistive, adaptive, supportive, and protective equipment or devices.

A Kinesiologist, on the other hand, provides personalized care to help clients reach stated goals. Kinesiologists have an in-depth knowledge of body movement, rehabilitation, and strengthening. They select active treatments such as fitness training and exercise rehab.

A Kinesiologist’s treatment program is determined after a thorough examination. From that, they develop programs centered on fitness, athletics, and body composition.

Beyond healing, a Kinesiologist provides detailed plans to help their clients get back into shape, lose weight, improve their cardiovascular endurance, and increase muscle strength. They do this with an active, tailored exercise plan carried out through personal sessions and recommended at-home exercises or techniques. This plan allows you to reach your goals by independently managing and improving your condition.

Which One do You Need?

If you find yourself dealing with an old sports injury, suffering long term pains or mobility issues, coping with an illness that affects your body’s movement or you’re seeking better overall fitness a Kinesiologist is the best fit for you. Not only are they specialized to deal with and help you overcome long-term injuries or pains, but Kinesiologists will provide you with the tools to improve your own health and to function at your physical peak.

In the specific case of those suffering from injuries due to a car accident, Kinesiologists are recognized treatment provider for ICBC active rehab. In ICBC active rehab, ICBC will fund a personalized rehabilitative program created and administered by a Kinesiologist.

If you want to get started on your own path to a healthier body here in Yaletown, Vancouver try working with a Kinesiologist at Symmetrix today.