Exercise Physiologist vs Physiotherapist Explained

EPs (Exercise Physiologists) regularly get the question “What is the difference between you and a physio?” and although there are cross overs there are some important differences that we can explain to help you select the right health care service for you. EP is a relatively new profession, with ESSA (Exercise and Sport Science Australia) the governing body, being formed in 1991and Medicare recognition coming in as late as 2005. In comparison the Australian Physiotherapy Association was established in 1906 so we can see why people are more familiar with their local physio! Let’s look a little deeper…

What do AEPs and Physios have in common?

  • Minimum 4-year university qualified.
  • Allied Health Professionals.
  • Recognised through Medicare, TAC, Workcover and Private Health insurance.
  • Both professionals work to reduce the impact of disease and disability using movement therapy.
  • Both professionals have ongoing education and professional standards requirements.
  • Both can deliver Pilates, hydrotherapy, and other programs effectively.

What is the difference?

  • Physiotherapists diagnose a condition or injury while AEPs assist in the recovery and management.
  • Physiotherapists practice a “hands on” approach to treatment and pain relief while AEPs generally practice a “hands off” approach to managing a condition.
  • Physiotherapists provide a diagnosis, initial consultations and management while AEPs will track a more long-term training and rehabilitation program.

Which Allied Health Professional do I need?

Answer these questions:

  • Do you have an undiagnosed pain or condition?
  • Do you have an acute injury or have you recently undergone surgery?
  • Do you require a professional for HANDS ON treatment or relief?

If you’ve answered YES to any of these then a physiotherapist may be the right professional for you!

A typical session with your physio will include:

  • Assess and diagnose a condition
  • Discuss desired outcomes and understand your goals
  • Educate you regarding your condition and offer ongoing advice
  • Develop a treatment and prevention plan
  • Give symptomatic relief using manual therapy techniques
  • Prescribe home exercise interventions.
  • Liaise with other health professionals such as GP, OT or AEP to ensure collaboration of management.

Answer these questions:

  • Are you recovering from an injury and wish to speed up recovery and maintain health?
  • Do you have a chronic health condition such as diabetes or hypertension for which exercise would assist?
  • Do you have goals around health management?
  • Do you need assistance with the psychology of your rehabilitation program adherence?

If you’ve answered YES to any of these then an AEP may be the right professional for you!

A typical session with your AEP will include:

  • Initial assessment and medical history.
  • Physical assessment including blood pressure, heart rate, body composition, exercise tolerance, muscular strength and range of motion.
  • Education on how exercise will help reach health goals with relation to a clients’ current condition.
  • A targeted exercise session in the clinic.
  • Strategies to empower clients such as assistance with the psychology of program adherence.
  • Setting home exercise programs with clearly defined goals and milestones.
  • Collaboration with other health professionals such as GP, Physio or OT to reach desired level of management.

We believe that strong collaboration between Allied Health Professionals creates the best outcome for our clients. If you have a diagnosis and need assistance to reach your health goals then we’d love to see you in our clinic, if at any stage we believe you require other Allied Health professionals we are only too happy to offer advice and refer you on. Your health is our priority!


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