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What’s the Difference Between a Personal Trainer and a Physical Therapist?

Physical Therapist and Personal Trainer

A personal trainer and a physical therapist are both able to assist you in reaching fitness related goals and their roles do somewhat overlap. When would you choose a physical therapist versus when would you choose a personal trainer?

education differences

First, let’s start with the education differences that occur between the two. A physical therapist is a movement expert who not only holds a bachelor’s degree, but also a doctorate degree in diagnosing and treating the musculoskeletal system. Following completion of a doctoral program, a physical therapist must also pass a standard national examination prior to licensure. Throughout one’s career, a Physical Therapist is then required to continue lifelong continuing education. A personal trainer on the other hand may or may not hold an educational degree and the certifications vary greatly among personal training professionals. Personal training examinations vary depending on the organization, however, all personal trainers are required to continue lifelong continuing education.

Clearly the educational requirements vary greatly between Personal Trainers and Physical Therapists but does that mean there aren’t great Personal Trainers out there? Absolutely not! There are many great Personal Trainers, and I even considered myself to be one of them. When I finished PT school I realized how much knowledge I had gained and was lacking as a Personal Trainer. This has strengthened my desire to strengthen the relationships between Physical Therapists and Personal Trainers as we both work to help our patients/clients to reach their fitness related goals.

how do I know which one I need right now?

Alright, so we understand there are some educational differences but how do I know which one I need right now?

Are you limited in motion or having difficulty performing a specific exercise? Many people are under the misconception that they must be in pain in order to see a physical therapist but this couldn’t be further from the truth. A physical therapist is trained to interpret movement and dysfunction in order to prevent more serious issues from occurring. Physical therapists can be helpful for prevention of injuries, improving posture, correcting form with various exercises, and helping you recover from an injury so that you can become independent in an exercise program.

If you have been medically cleared to begin an exercise program and want assistance carrying out a specific exercise plan, then you might consider hiring a personal trainer. Personal trainers are great for assessing your current level of fitness and building a workout program that fits your lifestyle. Personal trainers aren’t able to diagnose an injury or prescribe a treatment to recover from said injury, however they are very useful to help ensure you have a program to set you up for success.

Clearly there are benefits to having both a Physical Therapist and a Personal Trainer and I highly recommend sharing your goals with both professionals.

If you're interested to find out whether physical therapy is right for you, why not start by requesting a free telephone consultation with one of our experts?...

Dr. Bri Wyatt

PT, DPT, CSCS at Berman Physical Therapy
Bri received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri. She is originally from the Chicago area where she was born and raised. She earned her Bachelor's of Science in Biology with a minor in chemistry from the University of Missouri Kansas City.

In her time away from the clinic, Bri has a very active lifestyle and a passion for animals. She is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, as well as a former division 1 college softball player. She also owns her own personal zoo consisting of 2 tortoises, 2 ball pythons, 4 geckos and 2 cats! She is excited to explore her new home here in SWFL.
Dr. Bri Wyatt

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