This week, we tackle another one of your most asked questions in our series called Ask Me Anything.

What is the Difference Between a Physiotherapist & Massage Therapist?

One of the most frequently asked questions by all of our clients is how physiotherapy differs from chiropractic care and massage therapy; and it is a good one. Receiving treatment in a multi-disciplinary health clinic, like Propel Physiotherapy, our clients may definitely see some areas of overlap and some areas of exclusivity within these professions. We will shed some light on these areas in an effort to answer this FAQ.

Let’s start off with the definition of “physiotherapy” (which is, indeed, the same as physical therapy).

According to The College of Physiotherapists:

A physiotherapist is an expert in movement science and can pinpoint an injury’s root causes.

Physiotherapists have a focus on injury prevention, rehabilitation, recovery, and maintenance of a body’s well-being. They assess human movement and help build its capacity after an adverse event. A physiotherapist’s scope of practice allows them to rehabilitate individuals with musculoskeletal, neurological, and/or cardiorespiratory issues. They are able to prescribe physiotherapeutic exercises specific to a person’s condition. With additional training, physiotherapists can also provide services like acupuncture, pelvic floor rehabilitation, and spinal/ joint manipulations.

A physiotherapist’s scope of practice includes the evidence-based assessment, treatment, and education of the following disorders, according to the College of Physiotherapists:

  • Muscle strains, ligament sprains, fractured or broken bones;
  • Neck and back pain; chronic pain syndrome;
  • Dysfunction associated with amputation of an upper or lower extremity;
  • Lung or breathing problems associated with asthma, COPD, or emphysema;
  • Disability as a result of heart problems or cardiac insults;
  • Pelvic issues, such as, bladder and bowel problems related to childbirth;
  • Traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s Disorder, Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, peripheral nerve injury, and other neurological disorders;
  • Fatigue, pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of muscle strength, for example during cancer treatment, or palliative care.

According to the Ontario Chiropractic Association:

Chiropractic (care) is an evidence-informed, non-invasive, hands-on healthcare discipline that focuses on the musculoskeletal system.

Chiropractors mainly practice using their hands, correcting alignment and joint motion to restore proper movement and improve function. They can help to diagnose, treat and prevent many conditions related to the spine, pelvis, nervous system and joints. Chiropractors can coordinate with other health professionals and can support other medical or rehabilitative experts.

People seek chiropractic help for:

  • Back pain / neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Whiplash
  • Strains and sprains
  • Repetitive strain injury (RSI)
  • Work and sports injuries

Chiropractors and physiotherapists often work together on musculoskeletal issues that require a multi-disciplinary approach. Chiropractors and physiotherapists differ in their approaches to manual therapy and how the profession’s hands are used to address the person’s ailments.

According to Registered Massage Therapists’ Association of Ontario:

Massage therapy is the manipulation of soft tissues of the body including, muscles, connective tissues, tendons, ligaments and joints.

The association also goes onto say that registered massage therapy helps to alleviate discomfort in every-day stressors, muscular overuse, and conditions related to chronic pain. Registered massage therapists (RMTs) can be essential to one’s well-being, helping to:

  • educe or eliminate pain;
  • Improve joint mobility;
  • Improve circulation;
  • Improve lymphatic drainage;
  • Reduce muscular tension.

RMTs can work in conjunction with physiotherapists to provide analgesic support to patients who are experiencing severe pain. Continued support with the physiotherapist may help the patient make the necessary strength, mobility, and functional gains for a meaningful effect.


Registered physiotherapists use a variety of treatment techniques to address a person’s musculoskeletal, neurological, or cardiorespiratory impairments and are experts in rehabilitation from them. Learn more about our team of physiotherapists and our physiotherapy services.

Chiropractors mainly use their hands to assess and treat the musculoskeletal system and are experts in spinal manipulation. Learn more about Dr. Lalonde and our chiropractic care services.

Registered massage therapists address soreness and pain associated with a patient’s condition, and help to improve your body’s natural joint mobility, circulation, and resting muscle tension. Learn more about our team of registered massage therapists and our massage therapy services.

Written by

Hoong Phang
Hoong PhangManaging Director & Physiotherapist
Hoong holds a Bachelor Honours Health Sciences from the University of Western Ontario (2008). He has also completed a Master of Science in Health and Exercise Psychology (2010) from McMaster University, and Master of Physiotherapy (2012) from McMaster University. Hoong is currently published in the academic journals “Disability and Rehabilitation” and “Spinal Cord.”



1 Eva Rd., Suite 107
Etobicoke, ON, M9C 4Z5


Monday 8:00 – 7:00
Tuesday 8:00 – 7:00
Wednesday 8:00 – 7:00
Thursday 8:00 – 7:00
Friday 8:00 – 7:00
Saturday 8:00 – 12:30

visit the Propel Physiotherapy Etobicoke location page for more info


1099 Kingston Rd., Suite 5A
Pickering, ON, L1V 1B5


Monday 8:30 – 7:00
Tuesday 8:30 – 7:00
Wednesday 9:00 – 6:00
Thursday 8:30 – 7:00
Friday 8:30 – 7:00
Saturday 8:00 – 12:30

visit the Propel Physiotherapy Pickering location page for more info


1600 Lansdowne St. W., Unit 9,
Peterborough, Ontario, K9J 7C7

mobile services for Peterborough & surrounding areas


Monday 8:00 – 7:00
Tuesday 8:00 – 7:00
Wednesday 8:00 – 7:00
Thursday 8:00 – 7:00
Friday 8:00 – 7:00
Saturday 9:00 – 1:00

visit the Propel Physiotherapy Peterborough location page for more info