Key Differences between a Biokineticist VS Physiotherapist

Biokineticist VS Physiotherapist: Example of biokineticist Nicole Fish stretching patient in the final phase rehabilitation

After all these years, a big question I am still often asked is: “What is the difference between a Biokineticist and a Physiotherapist?” And so in this article we will reflect on the key functional areas of service delivered by a biokineticist vs physiotherapist.

Professional Histories

The Biokinetic industry is still considered a “new profession” having only really been developed since the 1980s. However, physiotherapists have been around for much longer, since around 1921 following the outbreak of the first world war. While there is an area of overlap between the 2 professions, there are significant differences.

Biokineticist VS Physiotherapist

Below is a table, taken from a BASA document highlighting the differences as well as the overlap between the 2 professions

Functional areas unique to a biokineticist  Functional areas in Common  Functional areas unique to a physiotherapist  
Professional service:
Screening for, and preventing, NCD risk factors (blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, obesity)
Exercise applied to address movement disorders in general  Professional service:
Minimising dysfunction and pain where pathology is present related to musculoskeletal conditions.  
Behaviour change assessment and intervention to improve lifestyle choices (increase physical activity, stop smoking and reduce alcohol consumption).Hydrotherapy  Hands on therapy (mobilisation, manipulation, massage and acupressure).  
Rehabilitation, functional and physical assessment of individuals with chronic diseases (NCD & CD), orthopaedic conditions and persons with special needs such as persons with depression, pregnant women, children and geriatric persons.Strengthening of muscles, joint flexibility and balance  Managing in-hospital pathologies to prevent loss of functionality.      
Promote physical abilities and prevent overuse injuries in muscles and joints. Initial rehabilitation: treatment of pain, swelling, limited joint range of motion.  
Optimisation of functionality, muscle strength and flexibility   Ensure mobility post-pathology in order to establish functionality.  
Service rendered as:
-Risk assessment across the human lifespan
-Use of specialised equipment such as ECG, Isokinetic, Spirometry, peripheral glucose and cholesterol
-Provide lifestyle interventions including health education and specific physical activity

Table 1. Functional areas of the biokineticist and physiotherapist

When do you need a Biokineticist?

So, how do you know if you need a biokinieticist or a physiotherapist? Well, in a nutshell, if you are in pain, or have suffered an acute injury, you will see a physiotherapist first to reduce pain and inflammation as well as to restore range of motion and movement to the joint/limb/affected area. After your initial visits to the physio, and once you are relatively pain-free, you will progress to the Bio who will do your final phase rehabilitation. This consists of restoring the strength, flexibility, endurance, and stability of the injured/affected muscles to get you to return to sport or just to return to regular activities of daily living.

You would also consult a Biokineticist if you: 

  • suffer from a chronic condition that can be improved/maintained by regular exercise,
  • if you wish to start on a new exercise regime and don’t know where to start
  • would like to get guidance on making healthy lifestyle changes.

It’s a Team Effort

For the best results, your physio and bio will work together to get the most benefit from your treatment program.

Of course, if you are in doubt, feel free to get in touch with one of us at Fish and Field who can assist you in deciding on the correct approach to the treatment of your injury.


Moss, H. (2014).  Improving service delivery: strengthening human resources for Promoting healthy lifestyles, preventing and managing NCD and rehabilitation services (A proposal to expand the contribution of Biokineticist in the public sector to address key health system imperatives), Biokinetics Association of South Africa. (Unpublished draft).

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