What is Physiotherapy? – A Complete Guide for Patients
What is Physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy is a medical profession dedicated towards helping you with your physical health. Physiotherapists or physios have had a long history for being experts in treating common physical conditions. Most people will consult a physiotherapist when they’re injured, experiencing pain or discomfort, feeling stiff or have problems moving. Using treatments just corrective exercise, hands-on therapy and education, physiotherapists utilise a large skillset for helping you get back on your feet (literally).
The History of Physiotherapy
The average duties of a physiotherapist have certainly changed over the last 100 years. Once seen as only technicians, physios are now seen as first contact health professionals. The profession’s evolution has been fueled by knowledge gained from fore founding and influential physical therapists (i.e. Mary “the mother of physical therapy” McMillan, Dr Stuart McGill, etc.) and the boom of scientific research.
Interestingly, the first form of physical therapy dated back more than 2000 years ago. Hydrotherapy was first recognised by Hippocrates, who is best known as the founder of medicine. Much like modern-day hydrotherapy, particular activities and exercises are performed to relieve pain and movement.
Following then, two major historical and global events substantially increased the need for physiotherapy even more. These events were the Polio Epidemic and World War 1 in the early 1900s. Due to paralysing symptoms of Polio and the widespread damage from the war, the spread of physiotherapy was crucial for rehabilitating people all around the world.
As people continue to face health issues, such as pain, injuries and stiffness, physiotherapists will continue to offer their services and support. Unlike 100 years ago, therapists work with all sorts of environments and conditions (e.g. stroke, heart disease, neck pain, women’s health, etc.).
Types of Physiotherapy Treatment
The types of treatment that you receive will vary on a range of factors, including your diagnosis, your goals and your chosen physio. Although physiotherapists are taught similarly during university, they way the consultation session runs can be extremely contrasting. Whilst some are more hands-on, others prefer more corrective exercises and rehabilitation. A list of popular treatments have been listed to highlight the variation you might see within the same profession.
- Corrective and/or neuromuscular exercises
- Strength and conditioning
- Clinical Pilates
- Balance training
- Education and advice
- Cognitive therapy
- Self-massage techniques
- Soft and deep tissue massage
- Trigger point therapy
- Dry needling
- Joint mobilisation
Benefits of Physiotherapy
“I’m a Pilates person. It’s great. I had a hip problem. I had a chronic back, a pinched nerve and a hip problem and it’s completely solved all of it. Love it. It makes me feel like I’m taller.”
– Jennifer Aniston
The power of physical wellbeing is crucial for life. Being pain-free and mobile impacts your body and how you feel, and your outlook on life. Famous actress, Jennifer Aniston’s quote shows the benefits of how pilates has solved many of her chronic pain and health problems. And she’s not the only one. Thousands of people every day are receiving physiotherapy treatment to mend their physical issues.
Instead of taking harmful painkillers or getting invasive surgery, taking a more conservative approach could be more suitable. Physiotherapy uses your body’s movement and natural (non-medicated) treatments to help fix your pain and achieve your goals. Additionally, specific recommendations made by your therapist can also keep you out of discomfort. For many people, surgery and painkillers can be avoided altogether.
Proven by Science
When the term ‘natural’ pops up, alarm bells might be ringing inside your head. Fortunately, the physiotherapy profession is driven by high-quality scientific research or better known as ‘evidence-based practice.‘ Evidence-based practice ensures that the best post possible treatment is being delivered for the most suitable patient. Incorporating this approach during consultations ensures that a therapist is more likely to help you achieve a better outcome.
Recommended by Doctors
A big reason why the profession has become so established is because of the relationships based with other healthcare providers, including general practitioners (GPs), surgeons, specialists and even dentists. One key reason is that physiotherapy incorporates evidence-based practice and study the same scientific foundations (e.g. anatomy, physiology, etc.). This is why physiotherapists are one of, if not the most, referred by GPs. There’s nothing more effective than a co-existing medical team look after your health.
Where do Physiotherapists work?
Sports clubs. Rehabilitation centres. Physiotherapy clinics (well, duh). These are probably the first few locations that you’d probably think of if you’ve ever been to see a physiotherapist. But there are so many different types of fields and areas where physiotherapists work. This question could be a whole other blog, but we’ll limit it to the three main streams that are most commonly practised.
This area of physiotherapy is probably the most well-known by a majority of people. Muscle tears. Rehabilitation after surgery. Lower back pain. Physios can treat any injuries, soreness or pain within the moving body. For this reason, musculoskeletal therapists work in many areas, including medical clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation centres, gyms, sports facilities and the broader community
A specialised field of physiotherapy which deals with people diagnosed with nerve and brain conditions. Examples of these conditions include stroke, Parkinson’s disease, brain injury, etc. Despite being much needed, they are found in more specialised areas, such as rehabilitation centres, hospitals, specialty clinics, home visits, and the broader community.
Cardiorespiratory therapists are also very specialised physiotherapists working with people suffering from heart and lung health issues (e.g., COPD, bronchitis, heart disease, etc.). They are also crucial for preventing lung problems which can occur immediately after surgery. Therefore you will often find these therapists working in hospitals, post-operation rehabilitation and specialist clinics.
How do you become a Physiotherapist?
As a practising physiotherapist, this question is asked all the time. For some, they might also be interested in pursuing this as a career. Others are just curious how long I’ve been trapped at university. Regardless, it’s a long and hard journey filled with lots of study, practical assessments and countless placements (i.e. hospitals, medical clinics, community centres, etc.).
To become a physiotherapist, you must 1) complete an accredited tertiary physiotherapy course and 2) be registered by the country’s governing body.
On average, it takes roughly 4-6 years to become a physiotherapist and complete the necessary studies. Although, certain requirements need to be met before being accepted into an accredited course. Included below are links to the entry requirements from several Australian universities, including:
- University of Melbourne – Doctorate of Physiotherapy
- University of Notre Dame – Masters of Physiotherapy
- La Trobe University – Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours)
But before being able to see patients without restrictions, a physiotherapist must be registered with the country’s governing body. For Australia, the physiotherapist needs to meet the national standards before being fully registered with the Physiotherapy Board AHPRA.
Like many other health professionals, physiotherapists also need to continue with professional development through courses and work experience.
Other frequently asked questions (FAQ) on Google
To cover any other burning questions about physiotherapy, I will also answer some other common questions entered on the Google Search Engine. Using my secret investigative tricks, I was able to find answers to popular inquiries.
Do you need a doctor’s referral to see a physiotherapist?
In many countries, physiotherapists are seen as first contact health professionals that do not need referrals. However, your doctor may recommend some therapists that they trust and might have a good track record. A referral may also be required for Medicare rebates. In Australia, for example, you are entitled to up to 5 bulk billed visits ONLY if you are eligible and have a GP referral.
What is Physiotherapy good for?
There is a whole range of conditions and injuries that physiotherapy is good for. Tennis elbow. Frozen shoulder. Sprains. Aches. Stroke. Surgical recovery. COPD. The sky is the limit. Although, more uncommon and specialised problems may require more specialised fields of physiotherapy.
For example, someone who has just has had a stroke should seek a physiotherapist who is experienced in neurological rehabilitation. Whilst elite weightlifters might want to find someone who works explicitly with sports. But for general issues, finding a local but reliable therapist should be enough.
Overall, many conditions (especially those listed under the Where to Physiotherapists Work?” section can be effectively treated by physiotherapy. For any further inquiries, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Does Physio help knee arthritis?
Out of all the top search results we found, knee arthritis seems to be the most inquired about the condition. When considering that an estimated 654 million people are diagnosed with this condition, it becomes less surprising.
Finding the correct treatment for someone with knee osteoarthritis depends on several considerations. What are the symptoms? How severe has it progressed? How old is the individual? These are just some factors that need to be accounted for.
Fortunately, the majority of people would benefit from physiotherapy. Therapists offer a range of passive treatments (e.g. massage, electrotherapy, dry needling etc.) and rehabilitation (e.g. hydrotherapy, strength training, etc.) to improve pain and movement.
Many GPs and knee surgeons will recommend trying physiotherapy for most people with knee arthritis before any other treatment. An innovative and effective program named GLA:D (Good Life with osteoArthritis: Denmark) has become one of the go-to therapies in the health industry. Research has shown that participants report that their pain on average by 36% in just six weeks.
Overall, physiotherapists offer a range of treatments that help manage knee arthritis. Recently, the GLA:D program has become readily available across many clinics globally and provided by specially trained therapists.
Is Physiotherapy covered by health insurance?
Most health insurance companies recognise physiotherapy as an effective healthcare service for the general public. As a result, many companies will cover physiotherapy as part of their coverage. However, some people may need to choose more comprehensive packages. For example, Australians will need ‘Extras’ on top of their hospital cover for services such as dental and optometry.
Despite this, many companies will operate differently. Please contact your health insurance for specific details and information.
Looking for a Physiotherapist?
If you’re someone with a nagging back pain or a sports injury from Melbourne (VIC, Australia), you’re in luck. Currently, we’re operating from The Movement Hive in Doncaster East. With multiple treatment rooms and a functional gym, we’re dedicated to helping you achieve the best outcomes.
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