I often get asked the difference between a Physiotherapist and a soft tissue therapist….


So as a rule of thumb (and there’s going to be a lot of those over this blog) if you consider a Physiotherapist to be more medical than Sports Masseurs and Sports Therapists then that’s a good start.


Physiotherapy in itself is a huge subject and roughly speaking splits into 4 different areas which have been simplified here:

  1. Musculo-Skeletal – when bits hurt
  2. Neurology – when nerves stop working
  3. Respiratory – when you can’t breath
  4. Orthopaedics – when you’ve just had an operation

Soft Tissue Therapy

So where does Soft Tissue Therapy fit into this? The best fit is into the Musculo-Skeletal section. As soft tissue therapists we specialise in this area.

Some physiotherapists also specialise. That’s why you often find physios and Soft tissue therapists working side by side.

Equally Soft tissue therapists are well equipped to deal with many kinds of neurological conditions.

Sports massage

What about Sports Massage? Sports Massage is really just one of many techniques available to help you recover from your condition.

Just like spinal mobilisation, joint mobilisation, muscle activation and exercise based rehabilitation.

I’d say they’re the biggies in terms of effective ways of getting you fixed!

What’s the difference in qualifications?

Well Physiotherapy is degree level entry usually followed by at least a 2 year stint in the NHS working out where you want to specialise.


Soft tissue therapy is not technically degree level entry but in most cases, certainly the level 5 diploma that I hold, is considered degree level learning.

For example yours truly is the holder of merely a level 5 City and Guilds diploma in soft tissue therapy, but then there’s no substitute for experience!


When Sports Therapy and Soft Tissue therapy becomes state regulated and so degree level entry I will be able to join the party by what’s called a grand parenting scheme.

This is exactly the process that physiotherapy went through many years ago.

It’s so the people who’ve been working in the field for a long time and have a lot of knowledge don’t get left behind. It would be a bit harsh having no job all of a sudden!

Sports Massage on the other hand is usually Diploma level. So point of entry knowledge may not be to the same level as Physiotherapists, Sports Therapists and Soft tissue therapists.


You can attend a sports massage course for just 5 days and offer sports massage!

However, that’s not to say there aren’t some fantastic Sports Massage Therapists out there. And I know quite a few. I’m a strong believer it’s not what your qualification is, it’s what you do with it.

As with most occupations your qualification is just the beginning of your learning.

The Soft Tissue Therapy qualification focuses on specialising in what is effectively musculo-skeletal Physiotherapy, movement and rehabilitation with sports massage being an integral part.

But more important than qualifications I think is what you then go on to do with it.

The qualification is just the start. There is so much more information out there that can help so many people.


That’s part of the fun of the job. Finding new and different way to help people recover and constantly learning. I love working with clients to find the best solution for them and one size definitely does not fit all!

Who does what?

As you’re probably understanding now the difference between the disciplines is not black and white but various shades of grey.

Another rule of thumb is that Soft tissue rherapists are more hands on – trying to change the way you work whilst Physiotherapists (especially in the NHS) are more hands off and give you exercises to do to fix yourself. But equally you can get very hands on physios.

So if you prefer hands on treatment maybe a Soft Tissue Therapist or private Physiotherapist would better suit you.


But of course the NHS is free, so you might want to try that – though the waiting lists for an appointment then becomes an issue!

Hopefully this has shed a bit more light on the blurred lines between disciplines. If you are still unsure, give me a call and we can discuss your issues. There is no harm in trying soft tissue therapy whilst waiting for a physio appointment

07980 339 864 Jason

Edited from an original article here