How can physiotherapy help me?
Physiotherapy is often associated with sports medicine or the alleviation of pain. While this assumption is correct, there are many other reasons people consult physiotherapists. For example, physiotherapy can help your grandma with her limited mobility or help rehabilitate your friend after surgery. Similarly, some physiotherapists can assist people with cardiorespiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic lung disease and hypertension.
What are the principles of physiotherapy? How does it work?
Physiotherapy, or physical therapy, is a process of healing, adjusting and strengthening the body through exercise, education, and awareness. It is suitable for all ages, and helps in the long-term recovery and improvement of muscle use and body function. It aims to avoid or reduce the use of strong medication or painkillers, and is therefore considered a holistic treatment.
The relative success (or failure) of physiotherapy treatment depends in a large way on the patient’s participation, and not just on the physiotherapist. A physiotherapist plans the treatment, educates the patient, and conducts sessions, but the patient is often asked to do ‘homework’, or to follow specific practices at home and in his or her daily life.
Physios may help ease pain or repair function for people from all walks of life. Some examples of conditions physiotherapists can assist with include cardio respiratory conditions (asthma, angina, bronchitis, hypertension, etc.), orthopaedic problems (sports injuries, arthritis, muscle strains, bad posture, mobility, etc.), and neurological issues (MS, Parkinson’s, spinal injuries, stroke, etc.), amongst others.
As you can see, Physiotherapists are able to help you improve strength, flexibility, range of motion and endurance. They can also help with reducing stiffness, improving gait and training you in the use of mobility aids among other things.
In fact, physios employ a holistic approach in diagnosing and treating patients to ensure they receive the best care possible. Treatment approaches vary from patient to patient and often involve a combination of techniques to achieve the best result. Some common techniques used are joint manipulation, muscle stretching, massage, taping (to prevent injury), acupuncture and dry needling (to assist with muscle function) and neurodynamics.
What to expect in a physiotherapy session?
While physiotherapists see many patients with similar problems, no two patients are alike. This means physios adopt a customised assessment and treatment approach to each and every patient and condition. Additionally, a standard consultation can vary depending on the scope of your physiotherapist’s practice specialisation. Having said that, a ‘typical’ session may include:
Step 1: The first time you go to a physiotherapists, they will conduct a detailed assessment. They’ll discuss your symptoms with you, and ask you questions about current, past and hereditary health conditions. They will also ask about your lifestyle. He or she may also ask you to perform a series of simple motions and tests to assess your mobility, strength, and flexibility.
Step 2: After this, the physio will discuss your lifestyle and treatment goals with you. Your physio will work with you to set goals: These could be as simple as waking up without stiffness in your back or being able to lift your child without pain.
Step 3: Once the problem has been defined and goals have been set, treatment plan is developed. This is a customized course of action that you will start on, under the supervision of your physiotherapist.
Physiotherapy usually involves regular sessions (a few times a week) of supervised exercise, sometimes complemented by treatments like massage, physical aids (equipment for your exercise), exercise physiology or heat or cold therapy. Sometimes, you’ll be asked to perform certain exercises at home to help you build strength or flexibility. Your physiotherapy ends when you have achieved the goals you and your therapist set at the start, but you can continue your exercises at home if needed.
Do note that your physiotherapist may ask you to undress in order to study your movements or to test the stiffness of your muscles. Wear underwear that you are comfortable being seen in. You may also be asked to wear shorts or clothing that helps the physiotherapists supervise your muscle movement.
When is physiotherapy useful?
Physiotherapy can be helpful to patients with injuries (sports injuries, fractures, etc.), disability (any impairment of function or limb), or permanent conditions (arthritis, Parkinson’s disease).
Physiotherapy as a preventive measure: Physical therapy can help avoid further damage or even surgery. If you can strengthen and adjust the body to reduce or eradicate pain, you can avoid more serious procedures. When you treat milder conditions with the right therapy at the right time, it prevents temporary problems from turning into chronic pain.
Physiotherapy to treat permanent conditions: For patients of non-curable diseases like arthritis, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, physical therapy has many benefits. It helps alleviate body pain, maintains activity in the joints and limbs, increases the levels of good chemicals like dopamine in the body and enables the patient to perform daily tasks.
Physiotherapy to aid recovery: Physical therapy speeds up recovery and ensures strong, long-lasting healing after an accident, surgery, or even childbirth. Athletes and people who participate in sport turn to physiotherapy as a viable solution without the side effects of medication.
Physiotherapy to strengthen weak muscles: When your muscles are not strong enough to work as they should, the function of your body is affected. Chronic lower back pain or knee pain are commonly caused by muscles that are ineffective at performing their role. A physiotherapist will work with you to reduce the pain by strengthening your muscles, and working with you on lifestyle changes if required.
Physiotherapy to realign the body: Imbalances in posture can cause pain and has long-term adverse effects on musculature and bone structure. If the spine or pelvis are tilted or abnormally curved, the surrounding muscles have to work harder to support the body, causing stiffness, discomfort, and eventual damage. The most common trouble areas are the spine, the hips, the pelvic region and neck. With rehabilitation, postural deficiencies can be remedied and chronic pain reduced.
What does it take to become a physiotherapist?
In Australia, to become a physiotherapist, one may do a Bachelor’s Degree in Physiotherapy or a double degree of five years. For specializations or higher education, one must do a Master’s Degree in the field in which one want to focus. After attaining the right qualifications, in order to practise, a physiotherapist must be registered with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia.
Common conditions that physiotherapy can help
Physiotherapy is very effective for the following conditions:
- Back pain:The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare says that 4 million Aussies reported suffering from back pain in 2017-18. That’s 1 out of every 6 people! The lower back is the most vulnerable spot, and lower back pain is one of the leading causes of absenteeism in the Australian workforce. Physiotherapy can have great results in treating back pain, as can acupuncture, massage, or myotherapy.
- Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI): Although not often taken seriously, RSIs can cause intense pain and long-lasting damage. This type of pain affects people who work at desk jobs or those who do manual labour, as well as sportspeople and dancers. Painkillers or relaxants are the easiest course of treatment, but are not a permanent solution. A physiotherapist can recommend exercises, lifestyle changes, and practical tips for daily life that will work in the long-term.
- Degenerative diseases:For someone suffering from diseases like arthritis or Alzheimer’s, where affected tissues degrade over time, physiotherapy helps provide pain relief, maintain strength, improve mobility, and delay the changes for longer.
- Pregnancy-related issues: Many changes take place to the body during pregnancy, and can become problems after giving birth. Incontinence due to weakened pelvic floor muscles, core muscles becoming ineffective, lower back pain and many other issues can be remedied with the assistance of a physiotherapist.
Whether you need a physiotherapist for a sports injury, pain from an accident that happened many years ago or bad posture, Avaana has you covered. Book an appointment with a physio near you now.