Many Albertans have an illness, injury or condition which makes mobility difficult and therefore effects every aspect of our day-to-day lives, from working to participating in hobbies or exercising. Physiotherapy is performed by physiotherapists. Physiotherapists are experts on how your body moves and what stops it from moving. As movement specialists, physiotherapists will use a hands-on approach to help you restore, maximize and maintain movement for the rest of your life. In Alberta, physiotherapy is a regulated health-care profession. This means only qualified professionals can become registered physiotherapists and use the titles physiotherapist, physical therapist or PT.

Physiotherapists get you moving and keep you moving. Physiotherapists are highly-educated experts in physical function, movement and mobility. They have advanced knowledge of how the human body moves and what stops it moving. Physiotherapists use specialized hands-on treatment to restore, maintain and maximize optimal function and quality of life. Physiotherapists:

  • Assess, diagnose and treat physical symptoms and limited movement caused by injury, aging, disability, or health condition.
  • Help patients understand what’s causing their condition.
  • Work with patients to restore, maintain and maximize movement, flexibility and physical independence.
  • Develop customized treatment plans that help patients take back control.
  • Teach patients how to restore, maintain and/or maximize movement, reduce pain, and manage any chronic symptoms.
  • Teach patients how to stay well, avoid future injury and achieve the best quality of life they can.

​​Physiotherapists excel in the treatment of many conditions including (but not limited to) back pain/injury, whiplash, pregnancy-related muscle/joint issues, urinary incontinence and vertigo to name a few. They also help patients manage symptoms of chronic conditions like arthritis and chronic pain.

Physiotherapists help patients who may have otherwise tried temporary (e.g., prescription drugs) or more invasive methods (e.g., surgery) to manage their condition. They use individualized therapeutic exercise, manual therapy and other treatment techniques.

Physiotherapists requires that the patient is involved and engaged in the recovery process, as success is often dependent on the patient’s commitment to the process.

Physiotherapists help people take back control of their body and life by restoring and maintaining maximum physical function. They:

  • Prescribe appropriate and effective therapeutic exercise and activities.
  • Teach how to manage symptoms/pain, maintain muscle strength and maximize movement and range of motion.
  • Prescribe and properly fit assistive devices (e.g., crutches, walker) to help aid movement or mobility if required.

Physiotherapists are trained to recognize signs of serious health conditions and will recommend a doctor visit when necessary.

Physiotherapists have an advanced knowledge of:

  • The human musculoskeletal system (muscle, bone, joint and soft tissue)
  • Biomechanics
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Therapeutic exercise
  • The physical/physiological impacts of health and disease

Don’t wait for a referral. Visit a physiotherapist as soon as pain or discomfort gets in your way.

See an Alberta physiotherapist if you are:

  • In pain
  • Have trouble moving due to
    • An accident
    • Illness
    • Injury
    • Medical condition or disorder

If seeing a physiotherapist in the hospital or after surgery, your physiotherapist will conduct a short but thorough assessment. After the assessment, your physiotherapist will discuss your treatment program. Depending on your situation, you may or may not be asked to complete a consent form prior to treatment. Make sure you understand your treatment plan and remember to ask if you need clarification.

If seeing a physiotherapist for other reasons, you may be asked to fill out paperwork or complete medical history forms. Your physiotherapist will then conduct a detailed assessment of your problem or condition. This takes about 30-45 minutes and normally involves detailed questions about your condition and medical history as well as a detailed physical examination.

Once the assessment is complete, your physiotherapist will explain what is causing the problem and discuss a physiotherapy treatment program.

You will then be asked to give consent to the treatment program. Before giving consent, make sure you fully understand the treatment plan. Ask if you need clarification. Your physiotherapist will explain the treatment plan in more detail.  

You can access physiotherapy services in a number of ways including:

  • After surgery or during a hospital stay.
  • Being referred by a doctor for a condition or injury.
  • On your own. You don't need to wait for a referral. Visit a physiotherapist as soon as pain or discomfort gets in your way.

Coverage

  • Many Albertans have physiotherapy coverage through employer or private health plans.
  • There is limited coverage from Alberta Health Services.
  • Treatment for workplace injury is often covered by Workers’ Compensation.
  • Treatment for minor car accident injuries is covered and pre-approved by your car insurance policy.
  • Visit: Paying for Physiotherapy

Find a Physiotherapist near you.

If you are in a hospital

In a hospital, physiotherapy is covered as part of your stay. On discharge, some ongoing physiotherapy services may be provided by Alberta Health Services (AHS). For example, home care, hospital outpatient treatment - but eligibility depends upon your condition.

Payment for physiotherapy treatment outside a hospital varies depending on your situation. Always ask about fees and payment options when booking an appointment or inquiring about physiotherapy services.

If you are injured at work

For work-related injuries, the Workers’ Compensation Board Alberta (WCB) pays for an initial physiotherapy examination and the first treatment. A referral from your doctor is not necessary. Further physiotherapy treatment is only approved once your claim is accepted. If approved, the WCB may authorize physiotherapy treatment for up to six weeks. The length of the treatment time varies depending upon your injury. Check with the WCB to determine the physiotherapy treatment authorized for your claim. Find a WCB-approved physiotherapy clinic in your area.

If you are injured in a car accident

You are entitled to accident benefit coverage whether you were at fault or not. Benefits depend upon the type of injury. If you have a sprain, strain or whiplash injury, and have filled out a notice of claim, your physiotherapist can bill the insurer directly - there is no need for a doctor’s referral.

For other types of injury, submit expenses to your extended health benefits plan first. If you don’t have a plan, or coverage is exhausted or does not cover all expenses, submit expenses to your automobile insurer. For more information, see What to do after an Auto Collision on the Government of Alberta’s website.

Other injuries or problems

For all other problems, you have three payment options depending on your specific circumstances.

Alberta Health Services (AHS)

If you live in Calgary or Edmonton the physiotherapist must determine your eligibility for funding using criteria set out by AHS. It is not up to a doctor to determine your eligibility. Funding in other locations varies based on priority and resources. Always ask about AHS funding when booking an appointment. To find AHS-funded physiotherapy services in your area, visit Alberta Health Service’s website and search for “physiotherapy.”

Health benefit plans

Physiotherapy treatment is normally included within employer-paid or individually purchased health benefit plans. The amount of coverage and rules to access physiotherapy vary between plans. Check your plan for coverage details. Your plan will indicate if your insurance company requires you to get a referral from your doctor to have fees reimbursed.

Check with your employer or health care plan about specific coverage amounts and claims submission process for physiotherapy services.

Direct payment

If you are not eligible for coverage outlined above and don’t have coverage under a health benefits plan, you will need to pay for your treatment directly. Confirm fees when booking as fees vary.