Rehabilitation Professions

Physiotherapist – massage-therapist – rehabilitation therapist – physical education teacher – movement science Ph

What are these professions?


I have often noticed that my patients would like to understand the differences between these professions, and, due to the lack of legislative clarity in our country, I thought it could be useful to share some insights here.


In Italy since 1999 the physiotherapist training is the exclusive competence of public universities; therefore, the various private institutions no longer have any role in the training of physiotherapists. The Doctor in Physiotherapy is therefore the only figure trained and recognized by the Italian government as regards the health professions that deal with rehabilitation.

The Physiotherapy Doctor, thanks to his or her extensive training, can operate in different fields and treat osteo-neuromuscular, orthopedic, neurological, rheumatological, geriatric, cardiological, pneumological, pediatric, urological and gynecological pathologies.

Before 1999 there were two professional figures who were trained for rehabilitation: the massage-therapist (specialized in rehabilitative and sports massage) and the rehabilitation therapist (specialized mainly in neurological rehabilitations, for example in paralysis caused by trauma, stroke, etc.). These figures attended specific courses recognized by the Italian Ministry of Health that lasted from two to three years. All the physiotherapists and rehabilitation therapists who got their diploma before 1999 have been recognized as equivalent to those who have got their degree in physiotherapy.

After 1999 the Italian government has recognized as physiotherapist only those who attended their university physiotherapy studies. After 1999 all the professional figures who have attended private institutions have not been recognized as health professions.

The physical education teacher is a figure that has had a complex legislative process but does not belong to the health professions. Since 2009 he has been recognized as a Doctor in physical education. The person graduated in physical education is the only figure qualified for teaching physical education in Italian schools and has some skills in rehabilitation and athletic preparation in all sports.

Another figure that has not yet been recognized as a health care profession is the osteopath. Since he doesn’t have any legal recognition, the osteopath training is made by private schools with courses lasting from two to five years. Physicians, physiotherapists (and equivalents) and other figures not recognized as health professions can have access to these courses.

On the territory there are also other types of therapists such as shiatsu operators, reflexology operators, ayurvedic operators and so on.

The situation is therefore very complex and the Italian government and the insurances reimburse only the invoices of the physiotherapists and their two equivalent figures (the massage-therapists and rehabilitation therapists graduated before 1999).

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