I am often asked to explain the difference between Physiotherapists and Personal Trainers, so I thought I'd try and clarify it here.
Many Physiotherapists take on a presence in fitness training as an extension of their rehabilitation role. They advise clients on exercising with, and for the prevention of, certain types of injuries. They often work in close consultation with medical physicians and surgeons to plan overall healthcare strategies for patients.
Physiotherapists routinely prescribe training programs for clients outside their regular treatments. As a result, there is overlap, so it is understandable that confusion exists. A Physiotherapist is a university trained professional (4 years) that is also part of the Allied Health group. Generally, Physiotherapists are specialists in the area of musculoskeletal disorders; prevention, treatment and management.
They can also be specialists in an area such as cardiovascular, pulmonary and neurological rehabilitation. Physiotherapists are known to use a variety of methods such as acupuncture, therapeutic exercise, massage, joint mobilisation and manipulation. Whilst Physiotherapists are well trained in all musculoskeletal injuries, some will specialise in specific areas, such as paediatric or sport physiotherapy.
Physiotherapists are required to complete continued education to stay accredited with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. Personal trainers are sports professionals who motivate individuals to maintain optimum fitness. They improve health and sports performance by demonstrating exercises and encouraging their clients to follow the routines. Many can administer first aid, but they generally do not provide medical solutions.
Personal trainers often encounter clients with existing difficulties, such as severe back pain and diabetes, and plan activities that blur the line between fitness and medicine. When a problem is beyond their expertise, trainers must refer clients to a proper rehabilitation professional, such as a physiotherapist. In order to become a Personal Trainer one will often complete a TAFE or RTO course. These courses are designed to give the trainer the skills to train the general population in a safe and effective manner.
Although it is generally easier to become a Personal Trainer, a good trainer will continue to improve their skill set by completing established accredited courses or going on to further tertiary education (Certificate III, IV and Diplomas in Personal Training are often used as a stepping stone into University). Unfortunately the fitness industry is loosely regulated and there are a lot of bogus and fad courses.
If you don't suffer from any medical conditions, do not let that turn you off seeking the advice from a Personal Trainer, there are a lot of highly qualified trainers that are doing their industry justice. However, I would advise that you check the qualifications of your Personal Trainer before receiving their services, in order to protect your own health and safety. TAFE campuses run a six-month Certificate III in Fitness course, which entitles someone to lead group work in a gym, and a 12-month Certificate IV course which is the standard for one-on-one personal training.
Lately however, courses which allow people to attain both certificates in as little as eight weeks full time, have become popular. In short, if you are healthy and injury free enlist the services of a well reputed and qualified Personal Trainer to help motivate you to your fitness goals. If however you have any kind of medical or health related issue or injury, seek the professional advice of a physiotherapist who will ensure you are guided on the safe and healthy path to fitness.