Physiotherapy—a.k.a. physical therapy (the two terms are used interchangeably, depending on where you live)—is a science-based healthcare profession that helps patients of all ages increase their quality of life. Physiotherapy promotes optimal mobility; prevents disease, injury, and disability; improves function; and helps patients manage pain through active rehabilitation and patient education.

Trained in anatomy and physiology, physiotherapists are experts in the human body and are able to diagnose and treat patients with a wide variety of ailments, though they generally specialize in a specific area—like geriatric physiotherapy or women’s health. Physiotherapists can treat patients suffering from musculoskeletal, neurological, cardiovascular, and respiratory conditions—such as back pain, sports injuries, stroke, heart disease, and asthma.

Before beginning treatment, a physiotherapist first completes a physical examination and conducts an interview to determine the cause and severity of the patient’s particular issue, as well as the patient’s general health and well-being, daily activity, and therapy goals.

To help patients achieve their personal therapy goals, physiotherapists develop patient-specific treatment plans that focus on the body as a whole, not simply the pain or impairment. Treatments typically include exercise, but can also include the use of a variety of other modalities, such as joint manipulation, soft tissue massage, electrotherapy, or heat and cold therapy.