Physical therapists, athletic trainers and personal trainers all help to improve a person’s health, but they go about it in a few different ways. In today’s blog, we’re going to take a closer look at the similarities and differences between these three groups and help explain who you should see based on your condition and goals.
First, let’s start with education level. A personal trainer requires the lowest level of formal education, as there isn’t a nationally accepted standard. Some facilities require their personal trainers to have specific certification or training, but there’s no set standard. Conversely, in order to be an athletic trainer, you’ll need a Master’s degree from an accredited program and complete a knowledge test from the Board of Certification. Finally, in order to be a physical therapist, you need to receive your Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree and pass a state licensure exam.
When To See A Physical Therapist Or Trainer?
In order to explain the differences between the three groups further, it’s probably easiest if we break it down by position and explain when you might turn to one of these groups for services. We’ll start with personal trainers.
- Personal Trainers – Personal trainers typically work with individuals who are looking to improve their overall health in a gym or fitness center setting. They’ll demonstrate how to perform certain lifts and correct any posture problems they see in clients who are performing lifts or exercises. They also help to develop exercise routines based on a person’s skill, fitness and overall goals. In general, they work with non-injured individuals who are looking to become stronger or faster through exercise and weight training techniques. They can also help educate the patient on how nutritional choices can help them achieve their fitness goals.
- Athletic Trainers – Athletic trainers tend to work in a wider variety of settings than both personal trainers and physical therapists. An athletic trainer may work in a medical setting, in a school setting, with a sports organization or even provide services in an occupational or industrial setting for certain types of employees. Oftentimes an athletic trainer is the first point of contact after an organized sports injury. They provide medical assessments, treat injuries and provide assistance in helping to prevent injuries. If you’re dealing with some swelling, muscle aches or want to tape your ankle before practice, you’ll head to an athletic trainer. In most instances, an athletic trainer’s main goal is to help athletes prevent injuries or further damage.
- Physical Therapists – Physical therapists typically work in a medical setting, but they can also be associated with sports organizations. As we’ve talked about on the blog in the past, physical therapists can help you take your game to the next level by improving your fitness and form, but they more commonly work with patients who are working their way back from injury or surgery. While an athletic trainer focuses on preventing injuries, physical therapists are known for their ability to help patients come back stronger after an injury or surgery. Physical therapists also help to prevent injuries by ensuring you regain as much physical function as possible, so treatment and prevention tend to go hand in hand. They can also provide nutritional and exercise advice based on your specific needs. You can go to a physical therapist if you’re looking to overcome an injury, but they are also a great resource for injury prevention and fitness improvements.
What’s nice about all three of these positions is that you don’t need a referral from a physician to see any of them, so you can go right to the source and save yourself some time and money. If you’re looking to become healthier or prevent and treat injuries, connect with one of these specialists in your area. In the greater Twin Cities area, we hope you’ll reach out to the experienced staff at OrthoRehab Specialists at (612) 339-2041.