What do Physiotherapists do?
Physiotherapy is the treatment of injury, disease and disorders through physical methods — such as exercise, massage, manipulation and other treatments — over medication and surgery.
Many people may be of the opinion that physiotherapists mainly work with back and sports related injuries, but they would be very mistaken. Physiotherapists are highly trained health professionals who provide treatment for people suffering from physical problems arising from injury, disease, illness and ageing. Their aim is to improve a person’s quality of life by using a variety of treatments to alleviate pain and restore function or, in the case of permanent injury or disease, to lessen the effects of any dysfunction.
Australia requires for all physiotherapists to be registered and according to data released from the Physiotherapy Board Of Australia, as at May 2012 there were 23,301 physiotherapists on the register. These professionals work in a variety of environments including hospitals, community health centres, private practices, sports clubs, rehabilitation centres, schools, fitness centres and in the workplace. They either work alone or with other health providers to provide a multi-directional approach to rehabilitation.
The Job Role of The Physiotherapist
The role of a physiotherapist is extremely varied with no two days being the same. He/she may have to assess the physical condition of a patient in order to diagnose problems and implement a treatment plan, or alternatively they could also be re-training patients to walk, or helping others to cope with crutches, walking frames, or wheelchairs. He/she will also be responsible for educating their patients and their families, (as well as the community at large) to prevent injuries and to help those people lead healthy lifestyles. In some instances the physiotherapist may be asked to plan and put in place community fitness programmes. Finally, physiotherapists can also issue sick leave certificates should it be deemed necessary to do so.
During the course of their career a physiotherapist will treat all manner of people including children with cerebral palsy, premature babies, pregnant women, people undergoing rehabilitation, athletes, the elderly (to try and get them fitter), and those needing help following heart disease, strokes, or major surgery.
Types of Physiotherapy
Physiotherapy can be an effective treatment for a plethora of conditions and any one of these treatments can help lessen the recovery time after a variety of surgeries.
Physiotherapists can specialise in a number of different areas including sports medicine, children’s health (paediatrics), and women’s health and within these parameters there are three different areas of practise. These are:
- Musculoskeletal which is also called orthopaedic physiotherapy and is used to treat conditions such as sprains, back pain, arthritis, strains, incontinence, bursitis, posture problems, sport and workplace injuries, plus reduced mobility. Rehabilitation following surgery is also included within this category.
- Neurological- This is used to treat disorders of the nervous system including strokes, spinal cord injuries, acquired brain injuries, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. It can also be used for rehabilitation following brain surgery.
- Cardiothoracic is the name given to the treatment of used asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and other cardio-respiratory disorders.
Types of Therapies
Each individual’s treatment is tailored to suit their specific requirements and a physiotherapist will choose from a wide range of therapies, including:
- Manual therapies – These can include, joint manipulation and mobilisation (which includes spinal mobilisation), manual resistance training, and stretching.
- Exercise programmes – such as muscle strengthening, posture re-training, cardiovascular stretching and training
- Electrotherapy techniques – which consists of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), laser therapy, diathermy, and ultrasound.
In many cases an injury can be caused by other underlying factors. It could be that constant back pain is caused by repetitive work related activities, bad posture, being over-weight, or even adopting the wrong technique when playing a sport. Accordingly the physiotherapist not only treats the back pain but addresses the other factors too. This holistic approach aims to reduce the risk of the injury happening again.
Physiotherapists in Australia have trained in universities and, as mentioned earlier on, are registered. You don’t need to be referred by your doctor but he may recommend a course of physiotherapy to help treat an injury or condition. The Australian Physiotherapy Association can help you find a suitable physiotherapist in your local area.