Physiotherapy aims to restore function and movement for individuals affected by illness, disability, or injury. It also helps ensure that risk of injuries or illnesses in the future are also avoided.
Who needs physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy can be beneficial for individuals with health conditions that affect the:
Nervous system or brain – movement problems secondary to multiple sclerosis, stroke, or Parkinson’s disease
Bones, soft tissues, and joints – neck pain, shoulder pain, back pain, and sports injuries
Breathing and lungs – cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Heart and circulation – rehabilitation following a heart attack
What are the main approaches of physiotherapy?
Physiotherapists employ diverse preventative and treatment approaches depending on the specific condition being treated.
Three key approaches—manual therapy, movement and exercise, and education and advice—are often used in physiotherapy.
In some cases however, other techniques like ultrasound treatment and acupuncture may be used.
Manual therapy is the technique where physiotherapists make use of their hands to massage, mobilize, and manipulate body tissues.
Manual therapy can help:
Provide relief for stiffness and pain
Improve the circulation of the blood
Movement and exercise
Movement and exercises are often recommended to help improve both the patient’s function and mobility.
This approach may include:
Exercises that can help enhance strength and movement of specific body parts.
Activities that entail moving the whole body (i.e. swimming and walking). This is considered beneficial for those who are recovering from an injury or an operation that affects mobility.
Therapies (aquatic or hydrotherapy) that help support and relax the joints and the muscles. Hydrotherapy also provides resistance so strength is gradually regained.
Education and advice
When needed, physiotherapists will give tips and insights that will help improve the patient’s well-being. Advice will also be given to help alleviate pain and minimize the risk of future injuries.
For instance, patients with back pain will likely be given advice on good posture as well as proper carrying and lifting techniques.
What are the benefits of physiotherapy?
Patients with neurological disorders like cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, strokes, and multiple sclerosis take up a huge percentage of a physiotherapist’s workload.
For instance, a stroke patient with a weakness on one side of the body (hemiparesis) or those patients with paralysis on one side of their body (hemiplegia) can highly benefit from physiotherapy.
Generally, interventions for patients with similar conditions focus on muscle transfer, reeducation, restoration and improvement of gait, and training in the utilization of mobility aids.
For children with cerebral palsy, physiotherapy can be beneficial as it helps improve postural control and minimize deformity and spasticity. It also helps the patient become proficient in the use of assistive devices to enhance functional independence.
Patients with cardiopulmonary conditions also benefit from physiotherapy interventions.
Case in point: individuals who experience decreased endurance, shortness of breath, and those who have difficulty going about their daily routines are assisted through resistance training and guided exercises.
Intervention will also likely include educating the patient on risk factors and behavior modifications so future recurrence of the condition is avoided.
Patients who have had cardiac surgery are often given physiotherapy interventions so losing both strength and function is avoided.
Cardiac surgery patients, especially the elderly often become fearful after the operation. To help them regain confidence and assist them on the road to recovery, thorough training in walking, pushing up from a chair, and getting in and out of bed are provided.
Physiotherapy also addresses orthopedic conditions among children, infants, adults, and the geriatric population.
Orthopedic disorders treated by physiotherapy include fractures, amputation, arthritis, neck and back pain, sports injuries, and other post-operative conditions.
Treatment often involves therapeutic exercises that help improve endurance, motion range, strength, and joint mobilization. In most cases, patients will also be trained in the use of ambulation devices to help enhance and restore movement.