These Frequently Asked Questions contain general information only and do not take into account your personal health, fitness or wellbeing circumstances, needs or objectives. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement by Avaana and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare, fitness or wellbeing professional. All site users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their health, fitness and wellbeing questions.
What do physiotherapists do?
Physiotherapists are trained medical professionals with experience in diagnosing physical ailments, restoring and maintaining physical function and mobility, and promoting physical wellbeing. The role of a physiotherapist will differ according to your condition and their expertise.
In addition to treating injury and disease, physiotherapists often educate patients on how to effectively use movement aid devices such as walking frames, callipers, splints, crutches, or wheelchairs. They may also teach patients at-home-exercises and prevention strategies for injuries. Physiotherapists also develop and implement fitness and wellness programs.
What is the difference between a physiotherapist and a chiropractor?
Physiotherapists and chiropractors aim to treat similar conditions, but with different approaches. Both practices treat joint and musculosketal problems by reducing pain, improving movement, and enhancing strength. Chiropractic treatments predominantly focus on realigning joints through physical manipulation. Physiotherapists, on the other hand, reduce pain and restore movement with manipulation and massage techniques, electrical treatments, and exercise.
How do I know if I should go to a physiotherapist or a chiropractor?
We understand that choosing the right type of healthcare can be a bit confusing when dealing with musculosketal pain or illness. As a general rule, a chiropractor should be consulted for relief from stiff, locked, or sore joints and a physiotherapist is more appropriate to consult for relief from soft tissue pain or muscular issues.
If you are still unsure whether to you should see a physiotherapist or a chiropractor, consult your general healthcare practitioner for advice.
What other services do clinics offer?
It is not uncommon for physiotherapy clinics to offer a range of related services. These may include:
- Massage Therapy: gentle hands-on manipulation of soft tissue used to reduce muscle tension, improve circulation, and facilitate healing.
- Acupuncture: the skilful and strategic insertion of small needles into pressure points of the body.
- Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS): the use of small needles to release or lengthen muscles causing chronic pain.
- Customized Orthotics: a device that can be inserted into a shoe to support and align the foot to address poor patterns of walking, poor biomechanics, and imbalances between the feet.
- Dry Needling: the insertion of multiple filament needles into problematic muscles to treat pain and movement impairments.
What types of health problems require physical therapy?
Physiotherapy can be an effective treatment for a range of conditions and is often used to
shorten the recovery time after surgery. Some conditions that can benefit from physiotherapy include:
- Musculosketal dysfunction, including back pain, rotator cuff tears,
- Neurological conditions, including stroke, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injuries, and multiple sclerosis.
- Sports-related injuries
- Cardiopulmonary conditions, including cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
- Women’s health and pelvic floor dysfunction, including lymphedema, urinary incontinence and pregnancy back pain.
- Pain associated with osteoporosis.
What will happen during my first consultation?
The first consultation with your physiotherapist will involve an investigation into your medical history, current ailment, and musculoskeletal health. This session may be longer than follow-up consultations and can last for an hour and a half.
Your physiotherapist will begin your consultation with an interview to thoroughly understand your symptoms, lifestyle, and medical history. The practitioner will then conduct a physical examination of your condition. This may include an evaluation of your posture, muscular, joint, and nerve strength, flexibility, and mobility.
The results of your physical assessment will be considered in the context of your medical history to diagnose your condition. Once your ailment is diagnosed, your physiotherapist will prescribe a tailored treatment plan for your needs.
You may receive treatment during your initial consultation. Towards the end of the session, your physiotherapist will recommend exercises and techniques you can use at home to continually manage your condition. They will then schedule a follow-up consultation with you.
How many follow up appointments will I need?
The frequency and number of visits you will need with your physiotherapist depends on the length of time you have had your complaint, your age, the severity of your injury, and your overall health. Ask your physiotherapist how many follow-up sessions they think you will need. It is likely that you will be given exercises to perform at home.
Do I need a doctor’s referral to see a physiotherapist?
No referral from your doctor is needed to see a physiotherapist. You may contact your preferred physiotherapist at any time to make an appointment. If you have suffered a work-related injury or vehicle accident, and you plan on claiming rebates from your medical insurer for your treatments, you will need a referral.
What should I bring to my physiotherapy appointment?
It is best to wear loose comfortable clothing that does not restrict your range of motion. Bring any important medical records (e.g. x-ray, ultrasound, or MRI scans) you may have with you to the appointment.
If you have a sports related injury, we recommend that you bring your playing boots and trainers with you to the session so that your physiotherapist can analyse them.
Will my physiotherapy session be covered by Medicare?
You can only claim a rebate through Medicare if you have been referred to your physiotherapist by your general practitioner under the Chronic Disease Management Program. This cover caters specifically to individuals with chronic or terminal medical conditions.
What is hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy is a specific form of physiotherapy that incorporates water in the treatment of conditions such as cerebral palsy, arthritis, and rheumatic conditions. This treatment typically takes place in a heated pool and combines hands-in aquatic physiotherapeutic treatments with exercises to improve posture, reduce muscle tension, and relieve pain.
Hydrotherapy provides a gentle, and safe treatment in a warm and relaxing environment. The weightlessness of the individual suspended in water is particularly useful for children and adults who are prone to muscle loss from immobility.
It is not uncommon for hydrotherapy sessions to take place at public swimming pools. Your physiotherapist will be in the water with you to guide you through the treatment and provide their instruction.
Will the physiotherapist treat me in privacy?
Each consultation with your physiotherapist will take place in a private consultation room and your care will be completely confidential. If treatments (like hydrotherapy) require public spaces, your physiotherapist will discuss this with you before your appointment.
Will the physiotherapist provide me with self-management strategies?
Self-management strategies play an important role in the treatment success of many musculosketal conditions. Your physiotherapist will help you manage your condition at home by educating you on treatment, management, and prevention strategies for your injury or ailment. This could include lifestyle changes, recommended postures, and tailored exercise programs.
What qualifications should my physiotherapist have?
Make sure you do your research before you settle on someone to help you. If you want to see a physiotherapist, find a practitioner that is registered, highly recommended, and with many years of experience.
Check that your physiotherapist is registered with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia. If registered, you can be sure their qualifications have been verified, and that they will abide by the registers Code of Conduct and Standards of Practice. In Australia, all physiotherapists are required to complete a tertiary physiotherapy qualification such as a Bachelor of Physiotherapy.