Can a physiotherapist diagnose?

Physiotherapists are primary healthcare providers that focus on the assessment of neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, and cardiorespiratory systems. Their scope of practice includes the diagnosis of diseases or disorders associated with physical dysfunction, injury or pain, and the treatment, rehabilitation and prevention or relief of physical dysfunction, injury or pain to develop, maintain, rehabilitate or augment function and promote mobility. So while physiotherapists can diagnose, they must only diagnose diseases or disorders associated with the musculoskeletal system. They are not able to diagnose diseases or disorders associated with other systems such as the cardiovascular or neuromuscular systems. However, they can help treat individuals with cardiovascular and neurological conditions with techniques within their scope of practice, such as exercise.

How do I choose a physiotherapist?

Choosing a physiotherapist can be challenging if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. Since physiotherapy can vary significantly depending on who you see, It’s important to consider what kind of therapy you’re looking for. Physiotherapy generally includes a mix of education, exercise, hands-on (manual) treatment, and modalities (acupuncture, heat, ice, etc.). Different therapists will spend different amounts of time on each aspect of therapy. Ideally, you’ll want to choose a physiotherapist whose treatment style matches your expectations. For example, if you’re looking for more hands-on therapy, such as soft tissue massage and stretching, you’ll want to choose a therapist that spends more time on those treatments. That being said, research demonstrates education and exercise are the most beneficial components of physiotherapy. So at the very least, you’ll want to choose a physiotherapist that can provide you with effective education and appropriate exercises for your specific condition. For most musculoskeletal disorders, all physiotherapists will be trained to provide you with helpful education and exercise. For more specific conditions, such as concussion, vestibular, or pelvic floor conditions, you’ll want to find a physiotherapist who is trained in these areas. Once you’ve figured out what kind of therapy you’re looking for, as well as whether or not you’ll need a therapist who is more specialized in your condition, the rest will be trial and error. Physiotherapists are people too, so some therapists will be better suited for you than others. Visiting a physiotherapist will be one of the best ways to determine what works best for you. Once you’ve seen a physiotherapist for a few sessions, you can decide whether or not their treatment style matches your expectations. If it doesn’t, you’ll now have a better idea of what you’re looking for, and can search accordingly.

What injuries do sports therapists treat?

The title “sports therapist” is actually not restricted in Canada. This means technically anyone can call themselves a sports therapist without necessarily having specific qualifications or education. This title is commonly used in other countries outside of Canada. Within Canada, athletic therapists are comparable to sports therapists and are more common. Athletic therapists are best known for their roles in emergency care on the field during sporting events. They are typically the first to respond when someone gets injured during high-level sport. Athletic therapists also work in clinic settings, focusing on the assessment and treatment of musculoskeletal injuries. They are experts in both injury prevention and rehabilitation. In addition, some physiotherapists may consider themselves to be sports physiotherapists. While these physiotherapists don’t necessarily have extra training or qualifications compared to a regular physiotherapist, they will primarily focus on the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of sport-related injuries. This may include any injury that could happen during, or as a result of, a sporting event. On the other hand, there are also sports physiotherapy specialists who do have extra training and qualifications. Any physiotherapist with a specialist title has completed a specialty certification program in that area of practice. So, sports physiotherapy specialists will focus on the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of sport-related injuries as well, but will also have completed additional training outside of the standard physiotherapy qualifications. That being said, all physiotherapists working in private practice (clinic setting) should be able to assess, diagnose, and treat sport-related injuries.

Still not sure what to expect with physiotherapy? Call us at 519-895-2020, or use our online booking tool on to book an appointment with one of our knowledgeable physiotherapists, and they will be sure to help you understand your injury. 


Liam Newlands

Physiotherapist at Strive Physiotherapy and Performance

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