Kinesiotherapy Vs. Physical Therapy: What's the Difference?

Kinesiotherapy and physical therapy are similar fields; both deal with the treatment of patients who have suffered from physical injury or illness. Aspiring kinesiotherapists may enroll in kinesiotherapy bachelor's programs, while prospective physical therapists are expected to earn master's or doctoral degrees in physical therapy. Accredited training programs in kinesiotherapy are not as widely available as accredited physical therapy degree programs.

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Kinesiotherapy Overview

Kinesiotherapy is used to improve a person's endurance, mobility and strength. The rehabilitation techniques used by kinesiotherapists are often prescribed to help individuals enhance their overall physical conditioning. A patient may see a kinesiotherapist after receiving a prescription from a physician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner. Kinesiotherapists primarily work in public and private hospitals, sports medicine facilities, rehabilitation centers and academic institutions, as well as in private practice and as consultants.

Education Requirements

Prospective kinesiotherapists may enter a bachelor's degree program that covers both didactic and clinical learning. According to the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), kinesiotherapy programs generally take 4-5 years to complete and require a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Students will cover areas like patient assessment, physiology, physical development, first aid and therapeutic exercise.

As recently as 2016, there were only three programs in the country accredited by the CAAHEP, all of which were available at the undergraduate level. Individuals who graduate from one of these programs are eligible to apply for professional registration through the American Kinesiotherapy Association. Additional registration requirements include completion of at least 1,000 hours of clinical experience and an exam.

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Physical Therapy Overview

Physical therapy is the practice of treating physical ailments in a way that emphasizes preventative care. Physical therapists work directly with other medical professionals, such as occupational therapists, medical doctors, audiologists and nurses, to treat patients who have difficulty performing day-to-day physical tasks. These professionals may work in hospitals, public health facilities or other healthcare environments to provide mobility improvement services and develop treatment plans for individuals.

Academic Requirements

Prospective physical therapists will need to earn a master's or doctoral degree from a program that's accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Master's and doctoral programs in physical therapy include coursework in motor control, neuroanatomy, biomechanics and musculoskeletal disorders. It takes approximately two years to complete a master's degree program, while a doctoral degree takes three years to earn.


State licensure is necessary in order to work as a physical therapist. Licensure requirements include completion of a CAPTE-accredited degree program and the passing of the National Physical Therapy Examination administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Some states expect licensure candidates to take additional exams.

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