What’s the difference between a Registered Massage Therapist, Physiotherapist, and Chiropractor?

Many people come into our massage clinic wondering what the difference is between a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT), a physiotherapist, and a chiropractor. Hopefully our brief summary here will be helpful.


Registered Massage Therapists, physiotherapists, and chiropractors are often lumped into the same category of health care because they share some general similarities.

  • They use their hands to examine, diagnose, and treat patients
  • They understand how the body is structured and seek to release tension in the muscles and joints to facilitate healing
  • They exist to help relieve pain and promote health and wholeness in the body


Registered Massage Therapists

RMTs mainly manipulate soft-tissue (muscles, ligaments, and fascia) to relieve tension and relax the muscles. They can treat a range of conditions including facilitating recovery from injuries by reducing stress, improving circulation, and releasing tense, overworked muscles. RMTs may sometimes use heat to aid the process.


Most physiotherapists will treat patients using a combination of massage, rehabilitative exercises, and manual therapy. They will also use various instruments and equipment, including ice, heat, ultrasound, taping, and interferential current (IFC). Physiotherapists have the broadest scope of practice of the three, using the largest range of techniques to treat patients.


Spinal and joint manipulation is the specialty of chiropractors. Chiropractors treat pain by looking for places where the nerves are being impacted by the spine or joints being out of alignment (called subluxations) and performing manipulations to realign the body. It is beginning to be more common for chiropractors to incorporate some active muscle release therapy into their treatments.


Registered Massage Therapists, physiotherapists, and chiropractors each offer different ways to treat pain and discomfort in the body. There isn’t one type of treatment that is better than another. What is important is that you feel comfortable with the course of treatment and that you trust your healthcare practitioner. As with any profession, there are good and bad therapists so don’t be afraid to try a different therapist if one isn’t working for you.