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The difference between a Chartered Physiotherapist and a physical or massage therapist

Posted by Brady Bunch on

Since launching our chartered physiotherapy service last year, a question posed to Whelehan’s staff is, what is the difference between and physiotherapist and a “chartered physiotherapist”? There is a difference. Unlike other medical professionals such as doctors, nurses and pharmacists, up until recently there has been no protection in Irish law for the title of physiotherapist in Ireland. This meant that in essence, anyone such as a “massage therapist” or “sports therapist” has been able to assume the name of a “physiotherapist”.

There has been many therapists practicing in the Republic of Ireland in many different settings including sports and leisure using the term “physiotherapists”/ “physio”/”physical therapist” but who have not completed the required courses recognised by the only governing body in the Republic of Ireland called the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists. Protect yourself by ensuring you always check that the person pertaining to be a physiotherapist is a Chartered Physiotherapist. A Chartered Physiotherapist will have the letters MISCP after their name. Recently, after many years of campaigning, the Physiotherapists Registration Board was established. This will require all physiotherapists working in Ireland to be registered and will ensure that only registered physiotherapists can use the title and treat patients.

Why confusion can sometimes arise?

The confusion arises because in many countries including the UK and the US, the titles “physiotherapist” and “physical therapist” are protected, and may be used only by therapists with the appropriate qualifications such as four-year full-time degrees. In Ireland, however, physical therapists or sports therapists generally do not have the same qualifications as a physiotherapist, and often gain their qualifications through part-time programmes. A simple way of checking if a physiotherapist is a Chartered Physiotherapist is by going to the ISCP website (; by clicking on the section, “Is your physiotherapist chartered?” and when you type in the name of your Physiotherapist, if he/she is a Chartered Physiotherapist, it will confirm this as well as their county of practice. 


What are the differences?

A Chartered Physiotherapist, physiotherapists must have completed a three- or four-year university degree programme. This training includes three core areas of muscular skeletal, neurology and cardiorespiratory. By choosing a Chartered Physiotherapist, you are choosing a professional who has scientific approach to the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of your complaint. Chartered Physiotherapists are recognised and covered by VHI, Laya Healthcare, AVIVA and other health insurance schemes

A physical therapist, on the other hand, can complete a course on a part-time basis, from 15 months to a three- year term, so the levels of experience and qualifications do differ. Moreover, training for a physical therapist typically only focuses on muscular-skeletal areas and does not take into account other body functions and processes. While the work undertaken by a physical therapist may be legitimate, the ISCP argues that it is essential that the patient should understand exactly what experience and training the person treating them has obtained. Thanks to physiotherapist Sinead Brogan from FlexPhysio Physiotherapy clinic at Whelehans for info for this article

Whelehans physiotherapy service with our Chartered Physiotherapist Sinead Brogan runs on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. We offer reduced physiotherapy rates for over 60’s and affiliated sport clubs. Book a physiotherapy appointment by calling Sinead at 083 1722171.


Eamonn Brady is a pharmacist and the owner of Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse St, Mullingar. If you have any health questions e-mail them to

This article is shortened. More detailed info sheets is available in Whelehans

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