Personal Training vs. Physical Therapy – Understanding the Difference

A woman talks with her physical therapist about her next steps once she's off crutches.
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It’s the time of the year when many of us are thinking about improving our health. And there are many types of health professionals to help us achieve our goals, including personal trainers and physical therapists. While you’ve likely heard of both, you may want to know the difference. This way, you’ll be prepared to call on the right partner to help you get back to whole health.

When to See a Physical Therapist

If you’re experiencing pain or limitations in movement due to an injury, you should see a physical therapist. Physical therapists have the education and state certification required to diagnose an injury and develop a customized treatment plan to help you recover.

Physical therapists also focus on preventive care. For example, if you have chronic lower back pain and you want to avoid injury or further pain in the future, a physical therapist can help you build strength and use strategies to protect your physical health and well-being.

When to See a Personal Trainer

If you’ve been medically cleared to start a regular exercise program and you’d like expert advice in developing an exercise routine, you can work with a personal trainer to start on a fitness plan that meets your goals, needs and lifestyle. It’s important to note that a personal trainer is not qualified to diagnose an injury, unless the trainer is also a physical therapist. Therefore, if you’re experiencing any pain or discomfort, you should always see a physical therapist prior to beginning a work-out routine with a personal trainer.

Helping You Reach Your Health and Fitness Goals

Both personal trainers and physical therapists can help you get moving, and create a plan for reaching your health and fitness goals. If one or more of the following goals is on your list, learn how a personal trainer and/or physical therapist can help:

Lose Weight

As long as you’ve been medically cleared to exercise, working with a personal trainer to develop an exercise program and nutritional regimen is a great way to shed some extra pounds.

Start an Exercise Program

Provided you don’t have any medical problems that exclude you from engaging in regular exercise, meeting with a personal trainer is a great way to get started building your physical endurance and strength.

Alleviate Daily Discomfort or Pain While Exercising

If you experience pain while engaging in daily activities, a physical therapist can diagnose the underlying condition causing your discomfort, create a treatment plan to help you get back on track and teach you prevention strategies for avoiding further injury or irritation.

Rehabilitation from Injury or Surgery

In the weeks or months following injury or surgery, you may work with a physical therapist to help you recover your mobility and function. After you’ve recovered function and have been medically cleared to resume exercise, your physical therapist may collaborate with a personal trainer to help you meet your long-term fitness goals.

Improve Function with a Chronic Condition

In this case, a personal trainer and physical therapist may collaborate to help you improve your function and physical fitness level. If you’re experiencing pain, a physical therapist can help develop a safe care plan to help you regain function. After that, you may be able to work with a personal trainer to set and achieve further fitness goals.

Want to know more about our whole-person physical and rehabilitative therapies at AdventHealth? We can help.

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