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What is physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy is a primary care, autonomous, client-focused health profession dedicated to improving quality of life by:

  • Promoting optimal mobility, physical activity and overall health and wellness
  • Preventing disease, injury, and disability
  • Managing acute and chronic conditions, activity limitations, and participation restrictions
  • Improving and maintaining optimal functional independence and physical performance
  • Rehabilitating injury and treating the effects of disease or disability with therapeutic exercise programs and other interventions
  • Educating and planning maintenance and support programs to prevent re-occurrence, re-injury, or functional decline

Physiotherapy is a rehabilitation profession that is present in all health care delivery streams in Ontario: hospitals, long-term care facilities, home care, community-based clinics, schools, private practice clinics, and primary care networks. It is regulated in Ontario under the Regulated Health Professions Act.

How are physiotherapists educated?

Physiotherapists must complete a university degree in an accredited Physiotherapy program, and they must pass a national exam to enter professional practice. In most parts of Canada, university Physiotherapy programs are offered at a Master’s level of education.

As part of their coursework, registered physiotherapists study anatomy, physiology, pathology and bio-mechanics. Physiotherapy programs also balance the opportunity for classroom and hands-on learning through lectures, labs, small group work, and clinical placements.

Physiotherapists are committed to lifelong learning, and they often upgrade their skills through continuing education programming post-graduation.

What type of treatments does a physiotherapist provide?

Physiotherapists offer a variety of treatments. In an orthopaedic setting, this can include, but is not limited to:

  • Personalized exercise programs designed to improve strength, range of motion and function
  • Joint mobilization and manipulation to reduce pain and stiffness
  • Manual techniques to reduce swelling, reduce adhesions, and improve mobility
  • Modalities to relieve pain, reduce swelling, improve the healing process, and improve function
  • Functional activity and tolerance testing/training
  • Work and occupational re-training and return to work planning
  • Recommendation and application of assistive, adaptive, supportive, and protective devices and equipment
  • Environmental change with a focus on removing barriers to function

Is physiotherapy safe?

Every physiotherapist in Ontario must meet the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario’s standards for entry into the profession and standards for professional conduct and practice. The College sets rules and develops programs to ensure that members of the physiotherapy profession offer safe and effective treatments. Many health professionals provide services similar to those offered by physiotherapists, but only individuals who are registered with the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario may use the title “Physiotherapist” or “Physical Therapist.”

What results can I expect from physiotherapy treatments?

Each individual responds differently to treatment. Your response will depend on your condition, chronicity, age, and health status among other factors. Consistent monitoring and re-evaluations will allow your physiotherapist adjust your treatment and provide optimal individualized care.

Do I need a medical doctor’s referral to get physiotherapy?

No. Physiotherapists are primary care practitioners. This means that there is no need for a medical doctor’s referral. It is important to note, however that some extended health insurance plans or community-funded programs do require a medical doctor’s referral as a requirement for coverage.

Who pays for my physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy is not currently covered by OHIP. It is covered, however under the Workers’ Safety and Insurance Board, most employer-provided or private extended health benefits plans, and motor vehicle accident coverage through automobile insurers. Many individuals also choose to self-pay for their physiotherapy treatments.