PHYSIOTHERAPY – WHAT AND WHY?

Why you should make physiotherapy a part of your life plan

 

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) describes physiotherapy as a healthcare routine that involves assessing, diagnosing and treating disease and disability through physical means. By employing proven techniques in manual therapy, physiotherapists help restore movement and function to patients affected by a disability, a health condition or an injury. Sometimes it is even sought out to prevent injuries and certain physical ailments. A physiotherapist uses his in-depth knowledge of how the body functions and combines it with hands-on clinical skills to diagnose and treat symptoms. But that is not the whole story.


Physiotherapy is not just a massage!

What people often fail to understand is that physiotherapy is not just about the body and physiotherapists are not mere masseurs. Our bodies and minds are linked seamlessly and a good physiotherapist will look at his patient holistically. In fact, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), the professional body for the U.K.’s physiotherapists, runs regular articles in its Frontlinemagazine on the importance of a comprehensive approach in physical therapy.

This means, ideally, physiotherapists ought to incorporate psychological therapy along with the physical work of getting patients back on their feet, sometimes literally. They must work closely with the patient to improve their overall health and wellbeing. Whether this recommended approach is followed or not depends on the individual therapist.


What does physiotherapy treatment involve?

A physiotherapist will start by making a complete assessment of your concerns. They might do this through a physical examination or by asking you relevant questions. This assessment will allow the therapist to suggest treatments and exercises tailored to your needs. Typically, physiotherapy treatment will involve:

  1. A customised set of specific movements (or exercises).
  2. Pain-relief treatments such as heat/ice packs, massage, joints’ manipulation and electrical nerve stimulation.
  3. A general plan-of-action or long-term advice on increasing your activity level and avoiding future exercise-related injuries.
  4. Advice on walking aids/splints for better mobility.

  

What are the techniques of physiotherapy?

Typically, based on the nature of the injury or any particular issue the patient is getting treated for, a physiotherapist may employ a host of techniques. Common techniques include:

  1. Exercises/mobility aids and lifestyle changes: Physiotherapists often recommend movement exercises to improve flexibility and strength in specific body parts. It is also possible that a physiotherapist, after a thorough assessment of the patient’s medical history and lifestyle, provides customised advice on posture, correct exercise techniques, and fitness activities such as walking, swimming or drills.
  2. Manual therapy: As a part of this technique, a physio gently manipulates the tissues, joints and muscles to flush out excess fluids from the body, reduce tightness, relieve muscle spasms and improve blood circulation. The technique is used to treat specific joint or muscle problems. It can also help patients with long-term conditions by improving their quality of sleep and reducing anxiety levels.

Sometimes, lesser-known techniques such as hydrotherapy are also used but their effectiveness is as yet unproven.

Who needs physiotherapy?

Physiotherapists are trained to help people achieve their highest possible range of movement. Someone may have suffered a severe injury while playing football or badly sprained her neck while bending over her laptop at work. A physiotherapist can help in both situations. Generally speaking, people should approach a physiotherapist if they:

  1. Have chronic pain in a joint or muscle.
  2. Are pregnant or have just delivered.
  3. Are in a pre- or post-surgery phase.
  4. Have certain chronic ailments like Arthritis, spinal cord injuries or neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cerebral palsy.
  5. Have had a stroke.
  6. Have sustained an injury while leading an active lifestyle; for instance, while jogging, exercising in the gym or playing a sport. In fact, it is always a good practice to consult with a physiotherapist before starting a sport rather than approaching one only in the case of an injury. Physiotherapists can help improve sporting performance by showing how to move, stretch and warm up correctly and how to reduce the risk of injuries.


How does physiotherapy help?

Today, there is a significant body of research that shows physiotherapy greatly benefits a whole range of people. Though there are differences and certain counter studies with regard to specific gains of physiotherapy (which we will come to later), there is general agreement that it helps in:

  1. Understanding and managing pain.
  2. Improving overall fitness.
  3. Strengthening and mobilising muscles.
  4. Improving balance.
  5. Recovery from trauma or injury.
  6. Managing chronic conditions and age-related problems.

 

Tips for effective physiotherapy

It is possible that you might have had a bad experience with physiotherapy. If you have had, it is legitimate to ask whether it does more harm than good. Will it hurt? Will it be a waste of time and effort? Such and other questions might plague you. But physiotherapy is a collaborative treatment in which you are part of the routine at every step. So, it is important to follow certain ground rules.

  1. Communicate your concern with clarity.
  2. Understand the treatment and listen to the physiotherapist’s recommendation. Clarify doubts, if any, and ask questions if you are not satisfied.
  3. Listen to your body. If something is hurting or not working, inform your therapist immediately.
  4. Participate fully in your treatment. Ensure that you do all the prescribed exercises and be disciplined about any other action you have been advised about, such as a diet change or medication.

 

Physiotherapy can alleviate the following conditions and ailments:

  1. Arthritis
  2. Stroke
  3. Neurological diseases
  4. Pregnancy
  5. Lifestyle-induced injuries

 

Is physiotherapy a stand-alone cure?

A study published in the British Medical Journal claimed that physiotherapy offered in the NHS for lower back pain of mild to moderate severity did not do much good to the patients and that physiotherapy was just an ‘easy option’ for sufferers. Responding to the study, the CSP retorted that it was imperative patients combine physiotherapy with long-term lifestyle changes (such as regular exercise and a balanced diet) for overall pain improvement.

Like any other healthcare routine, physiotherapy too can enrich our stress-filled lives if we do not put the whole burden of our physical health outcomes on it and instead use it as a part of our broader wellness-focused life plan.

For more details on our physiotherapy module and the rest of our extensive library of health and wellbeing modules, you can book a demo with Earthmiles to learn more about how our software platform can help your business.

Originally written 4th September 2019