What is a kinesiologist?

The following article was originally written by Kristen Mayne of Lumino Health in consultation with Angela, and is reproduced here with permission.


Are you wondering what a kinesiologist does and if they can help you? To learn more about kinesiology and what it can treat, we spoke to Angela Pereira. Pereira is a Registered Kinesiologist and Certified Nutritional Practitioner. She is also the founder of First Line Education, an online continuing education platform for kinesiology students and kinesiologists.

What is a kinesiologist? 

Kinesiologists, also known as kins, are human movement experts and exercise scientists, says Pereira. “We focus on health promotion, injury and disease prevention and lifestyle counselling for people of all ages and abilities.” 

Everyone who practices kinesiology in Canada are kinesiologists. However, Ontario is the only province where they are a regulated health profession. Because of that, in Ontario they are Registered Kinesiologists, says Pereira.

What does a kinesiologist do? 

Kins use a wide range active and passive techniques to help their patients move comfortably and without pain, says Pereira. “We also teach about healthy lifestyle habits and balanced whole food nutrition. Kinesiologists improve well-being by helping their patients avoid injury at home, work and in sport.”

Pereira says kins support and treat their clients:

  • Pre- and post-surgery
  • Acute or chronic rehabilitation after a work-related injury or a car accident
  • In general fitness and sport performance
  • In the workplace through office or industrial ergonomics and disability management and support.

Kinesiologists also promote occupational health and safety in the workplace.

Kinesiology vs physiotherapy: What’s the difference? 

The scopes of practice of kinesiologists and physiotherapists are similar, says Pereira. “Both are very broad and that’s a good thing. This means that both can work with a wide range of people and conditions.”

The difference? Physiotherapists can perform seven of the 14 controlled acts that regulated health-care professionals can perform in Canada. Registered Kinesiologists in Ontario are not licensed to perform any controlled acts, says Pereira. The seven acts physiotherapists can perform are:

  • spinal manipulation
  • tracheal suctioning
  • acupuncture (this includes dry needling)
  • treating wounds below the dermis
  • pelvic internal exams
  • administering a substance by inhalation

Physiotherapists can also diagnose their clients. “Whereas kinesiologists can provide clients with clinical findings. Meaning kinesiologists can treat based on the results from their assessment,” says Pereira.

Despite these differences, kinesiologists and physiotherapists work very well together to provide care to their clients, says Pereira. “Working within a team environment may mean that some common skills are assigned to one professional over the other. But this is always done with the client’s best interest in mind.”

Kins’ scope of practice also overlaps occupational therapy, dietetics and medicine, says Pereira. “This has its benefits for continuity of care for our patients. But it can also be a challenge for the public to understand what it is that we do. In many cases, our treatment sessions could look the same as a session with a physiotherapist. Or a session with an occupational therapist.”

Kinesiology insurance coverage 

“Most, if not all, private health insurance plans will pay for physiotherapy treatments up to a limit. Some large insurance companies in Canada are starting to add kinesiology services to their policies,” says Pereira. “For many years, insurers have paid for kinesiology assessments and treatments for motor vehicle accidents and workplace injuries.”

In most cases, kins bill their clients directly for their services, says Pereira. “When insurance coverage is an important factor in the choice between these two professions, clients may prefer physiotherapy.”


How do you know if you should see a kinesiologist vs another health-care provider? 

Pereira says that if someone is feeling pain or a reduced level of function with a particular position, movement or skill – and doesn’t require any of the controlled acts as treatment – a kinesiologist is an excellent choice. “A kinesiologist may also be a great choice for someone requiring advice about nutrition and general health supplementation. These services are not listed as essential competencies for physiotherapists in Canada.”

If during an assessment, a kinesiologist finds a client would benefit from a referral, they will make the recommendation. This could be for a second opinion or for treatment with a skill set that they do not have, says Pereira.

Pereira suggests reaching out to a kinesiologist if you:

  • Experience stiffness and may be having difficulty doing certain physical tasks throughout your day. This could be at home or at work.
  • Want to improve your athletic performance. A kin can develop a strength training program to help you reach your sporting goals. 

Final thoughts on kinesiology 

“Today in Canada, kinesiologists can have multiple professional roles, for example registered massage therapist, ergonomist or nutritionist. Kins were newly regulated in Ontario in 2013. This means that there is little to no public awareness of the profession in Canada,” says Pereira.

But she looks forward to the profession flourishing. “Our Ontario College membership and other provincial professional associations are actively working to help the public better understand what kinesiology is. And how movement therapy is critical for injury prevention and health promotion.”

Are you experiencing stiffness or difficulty doing tasks? Use Lumino Health to find a kinesiologist near you.

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