What is Physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy is a healthcare profession dedicated to working with people to identify and maximize their ability to move and function throughout their lifespan.
Specifically, physiotherapists improve clients’ quality of life by:
- Promoting optimal mobility, physical activity and overall health and wellness;
- Preventing disease, injury, and disability;
- Managing acute and chronic conditions, activity limitations, and participation restrictions;
- Improving and maintaining optimal functional independence and physical performance;
- Rehabilitating injury and the effects of disease or disability with therapeutic exercise programs and other interventions; and
- Educating and planning maintenance and support programs to prevent re-occurrence, re-injury or functional decline.
Physiotherapy is anchored in movement sciences and aims to enhance or restore function of multiple body systems. The profession is committed to health, lifestyle and quality of life. This holistic approach incorporates a broad range of physical and physiological therapeutic interventions and aids.
Physiotherapy services are those that are performed by physiotherapists or any other trained individuals working under a physiotherapist’s direction and supervision.
Physiotherapy has come a long way from the early nineteenth century when massage and manipulation were seen as being outside the pale of medical science, which at the time centered on drug treatment and surgical procedures. In those days physiotherapy employed heat, electrical stimulation and water-based applications to aid movement and function. This practice was seen by some as exploiting the desperately ill and gullible and therefore deemed useless. It wasn’t until World War II that some significant advances began to be made, but still decades passed before the profession could gain the recognition as a specialised field of medicine.
Many benefits are available to the public through the widening scope of physiotherapy. The profession addresses orthopedic, neurological, cardiopulmonary and cardiac problems among infants, children adults and geriatric populations. Some of the orthopedic disorders treated are sports injuries, fractures, joint disorders, amputation, back and neck pain, arthritis and post-operative conditions. Orthopedic physiotherapy takes place in a private practice, depending on the stage of the condition. Intervention involves therapeutic exercise to improve strength, range of motion and endurance, joint mobilisation to reduce stiffness and modalities to relieve pain. An orthopedic patient will most likely be trained in the use of an ambulation device to help restore or enhance movement.
Neurological disorders such as strokes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy and spinal cord injury make up a great percentage of a physiotherapist’s caseload. A stroke patient may present with hemiplegia (paralysis on one side of the body), hemiparesis (weakness on one side of the body) abnormal muscle tone and/or neglect of one side of the body. Physiotherapy is invaluable in correcting these issues or, where necessary, in training the individual to compensate for these deficits. Interventions focus on muscle reeducation, transfers, restoring and improving gait and training in the use of mobility aids.
For children suffering from cerebral palsy, physiotherapy is essential in helping to reduce spasticity and deformity, improve postural control, train the child to use assistive devices and do all that is necessary to maximise the child’s functional independence. We will also educate the family so they can help carryover what the child has learned during therapy sessions.
Cardiopulmonary conditions respond well to physiotherapy intervention. Patients who have difficulty performing their activities of daily living, shortness of breath and decreased endurance, can achieve markedly improved quality of life through guided exercise and resistance training. Intervention also includes counseling about risk factors, patient education to prevent future recurrence and behavior modification. For those patients who have had cardiac surgery, physiotherapy is initiated early to prevent the patient from losing strength and function. Many patients, especially the elderly, become fearful after cardiac surgery. Proper training in getting in and out of bed, pushing up from a chair and walking can help the patient regain confidence and set them on the road to recovery.