If you are suffering from range of motion restriction, musculoskeletal injuries (tendons, ligaments, and soft tissue), or pain in certain movements you may have started to look at treatment options and wonder if you should seek out a  kinesiologist or a physiotherapist. While there is considerable overlap in what kinesiologists and physiotherapists do, there are some significant differences in focus and approach to treatment.  

Kinesiology vs Physiotherapy

kinesiologist with patient


A Kinesiologist’s goal is to improve human performance and function through exercise prescription completed during one on one active exercise sessions. Unlike physiotherapy, these hour-long sessions are typically done in a gym setting and require exercise equipment.

An exercise program is tailored to your injury and can be beneficial in your continuation of exercising/moving correctly while decreasing your chance of re-injury.

Physiotherapist treating a patient


Physiotherapy is a more “whole body” approach, Physiotherapist’s can assess, diagnose, and treat people who have injuries, illnesses, or disabilities with a number of diverse modalities as well as utilizing manual hands-on therapy. Some therapies that physiotherapists may use include: therapeutic ultrasound, shockwave therapy, cold laser therapy, and spinal decompression.

Physiotherapists are normally specialized in other areas as well such as dry needling (acupuncture/IMS), or concussion/vestibular therapy. The treatment is aimed toward restoring the body, helping it heal quicker, and changing a person’s overall quality of life. Physiotherapy sessions often will incorporate exercises as part of the treatment but not as many as a Kinesiology session would.

kinesiology vs physiotherapy

When would someone seek treatment from a kinesiologist?

  • Injuries related to a motor vehicle accident
  • Reconditioning needed after surgery, pregnancy etc.
  • Sports injuries
  • Injuries related to falls
  • Chronic medical conditions (heart disease, diabetes etc.)
  • Weight loss goals
  • To increase overall strength
  • To increase cardiovascular endurance

When would someone seek treatment from a physiotherapist?

  • Sports injuries
  • Chronic pain
  • Vertigo
  • Concussions
  • Neurological disorders (Parkinsons, stroke, etc)
  • Injuries related to a motor vehicle accident
  • Injuries related to a workplace accident
  • Pelvic floor related issues

Are you more likely to see a kinesiologist or a physiotherapist for a sports injury?

Physiotherapy is commonly used to treat sports injuries, you will most likely see a Physiotherapist first, as they have the ability to formally diagnose your injury. If you are in significant pain, receiving treatment from a Physiotherapist first may be key in decreasing any pain or swelling that is occurring in the acute phase of the injury. 

A physiotherapist may then refer you to a kinesiologist. This often happens after the pain from the original injury has decreased so that active rehab can be started. Exercise is beneficial in improving the strength of the injured area, and a kinesiologist can address any movement issues from the sports injury.

Are kinesiology and active rehab the same thing?

Kinesiology is basically the study of the human body, anywhere from anatomy, physiology and biomechanics. Kinesiologists are movement specialists.

Active Rehab is a program designed by a Kinesiologist specifically for rehabilitation from an injury for a specific person. 

How does the training /schooling differ between a physiotherapist and a kinesiologist?

Kinesiologists graduate with a 4 years Bachelor of Kinesiology Degree. They have studied the human body in motion (biomechanics), strength and conditioning, methods of rehabilitation, and have a great understanding of human anatomy and physiology.

Physiotherapists on the other hand, go on to pursue their Masters Degree in Physiotherapy and are able to assess, diagnose, and treat people. Although not all Physiotherapists receive a Bachelor in Kinesiology before receiving their Master’s Degree in Physiotherapy, many do as the two degrees complement each other. 

How are kinesiologists and physiotherapists licensed and regulated in Canada?

Physiotherapists are licensed and regulated by each individual provincial college. In British Columbia, that is the College of Physical Therapist of British Columbia (CPTBC).

Kinesiologist licensing and regulations are different in each province. Some have a college while others do not. In British Columbia, they do not have a regulatory college, instead, they have an Association called British Columbia Association of Kinesiologists (BCAK).


Vital Life Physiotherapy has both physiotherapists and a kinesiologist on staff. Over the course of your treatment, you may have sessions with both a kinesiologist and a physiotherapist at different points in your treatment plan.  If you have any questions about which treatment option would be better suited to your needs and goals, please reach out and our staff can advise you.