What is physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy is a science that aims to help people restore movement and function. Physical therapy can help someone recover from injuries, trauma, illness or any other disability that is related to pain or restrictions in daily life activities.
Physical therapy is provided by physical therapists who promote, maintain and restore the well-being through examination, diagnosis, prognosis, patient education, physiotherapeutic intervention, rehabilitation, disease prevention and health promotion.
Why do I need physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy, also known as physical therapy, helps someone be active in their day to day life while helping them remain independent. Physiotherapy is a holistic intervention and it takes a “whole person” approach to wellbeing, health and euphoria in their general lifestyle.
The main goal of a physiotherapist is to help the patient manage the pain, prevent diseases and restore their health and fitness.
Physiotherapy is a degree-based health-care profession. Physiotherapists use their knowledge and skills to improve dysfunctions related to different systems of the body. Physiotherapists can specialise in several different areas, like sports medicine, children’s health, women’s health in pregnancy etc. Within these parameters there are four main fields of practice:
- Cardiorespiratory (also known as cardiopulmonary or cardiovascular) field of physiotherapy deals with conditions related to the lungs, the heart, and all the circulatory system, especially bronchial asthma, pneumothorax, chronic obstructive lung’s disease etc.
- Musculoskeletal field of physiotherapy deals with injuries related to bones, joints and muscles. This field is also known as orthopedic.
- Neurology field of physiotherapy deals with rehabilitation of patients recovering from neurological disorders such as stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, side effects from brain surgery etc.
- Pediatric rehabilitation concerns neurological disabilities like cerebral palsy, syndromes, autism malfunctions and other similar
What does a physiotherapist do?
A physiotherapist is a healthcare professional who works with patients with all types of dysfunctions or limitations.
A physiotherapist, or physical therapist, works with patients to help them reduce pain, manage mobility, induce balance and function in normal motor patterns.
Physical therapists are trained to develop customized programs to restore as much as possible the patient’s functional ability and movement, at all stages of their life, even from birth.
Physiotherapists, in clinical practice, involve patients in their own care, through education, awareness, empowerment and participation in their treatment.
In addition, a physical therapist’s practice includes research, education and health management. Physical therapy is provided as a primary care treatment or in combination with other medical services.
What to expect at the physiotherapist?
Physiotherapeutic techniques are holistic approaches to treat not only the physical aspects of the patient’s life, but the emotional, psychological, and social part of their life. In addition, the physiotherapist encourages the patient to take part in their own care.
Most of us at some point of our lives might have already, or we will visit a physiotherapist. The most common reasons in general are car accidents, sports accidents, surgeries, low back pain, cervical pain, stroke etc.
The main goal of a physical therapist is to improve the patient’s motion, health and quality of life. They work at all stages of their healthcare. They treat, provide intervention, educate, rehabilitate, prevent relapses etc.
The first time that the patient meets the physiotherapist a detailed history of their dysfunction is recorded. The patient discusses with the professional about all their problems.
Then follows an evaluation of their muscles, their muscular system, their muscle tone, their joints, their respiratory and vascular system and everything that gives the necessary information about their health.
After all that, the physiotherapist organizes the unique and personalized program, to achieve all the goals that have been set.
How does physiotherapy work?
Physiotherapy as a health care profession assists people to restore, improve, maintain their function and prevent recurrences of their dysfunctions. They often work in a team with other health professionals to help a patient improve their motion and health in daily life activities.
Physiotherapists as health-care practitioners, have in-depth knowledge of how the human body works. Physiotherapy practitioners specialize in techniques and approaches to diagnose, treat and cure patient’s disabilities.
The most common techniques are:
- Kinesiotherapy, almost in any case, improves the patient’s movement and function. Being active is the brain’s cure. Kinesiotherapy is the core element of physiotherapy/physical therapy. According to the American Kinesiotherapy Association, it is the application of scientifically based exercise principles adapted to enhance the strength, endurance and mobility of individuals with functional limitations. The word kinesiotherapy literally means movement therapy and kinesiotherapists use the principle of movement to address a person’s injury or disability. After that, this principle is incorporated into a program of rehabilitation consisting of active and/or passive exercise.
- Electrotherapy includes a range of treatments using electricity to reduce pain, improve circulation, repair tissues, strengthen muscles, and promote bone growth, leading to improvements in physical functioning.The exact mechanism of electrical stimulation’s beneficial effect remains controversial. Electrical stimulation may directly block transmission of pain signals along nerves. In addition, electrical stimulation has been shown to promote the release of endorphins, the natural painkillers produced by the body.The electrical current may start off as a slight tingling sensation and build to a pulling sensation.
- Ultrasound therapy is a treatment used by physical therapists or occupational therapists to relieve pain and to promote tissue healing. There was little evidence that active therapeutic ultrasound is more effective than placebo ultrasound for treating people with pain or a range of musculoskeletal injuries or for promoting soft tissue healing. While ultrasound therapy is not effective for all chronic pain conditions, it may help reduce patient’s pain if they have any of the following: Osteoarthritis. Myofascial pain syndrome.
- Tape therapy– Kinesiology Therapeutic (KT) tape is used to support and relieve pain in muscles, joints, and/or ligaments. Kinesiology tape works—when applied correctly—by lifting the skin from the tissues below it. Everyone has nerve receptors in their skin, as well as in the deep layers of the fascia, muscles, and other connective tissues. Taping areas that veer away from correct posture can help gently support proper posture. Proper taping also enables weak muscles to function efficiently, reduces pain and fatigue, and protects against cramping, over-extension, and over-contraction.
- Traction is a manual technique designed to reduce pressure on affected vertebral discs that are causing pain. Traction is a manual ‘stretching’ of the spine which reduces pressure on the discs and therefore reduces the individual’s pain. This technique used to stretch soft tissues and separate joint surfaces or bone fragments using a pulling force.
- Acupuncture therapy is a form of treatment that involves inserting very thin needles through a person’s skin at specific points on the body, to various depths. Research suggests that it can help relieve pain, and it is used for a wide range of other complaints. Acupuncture points are believed to stimulate the central nervous system. This, in turn, releases chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These biochemical changes may stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being.
- Mirror therapy is a type of therapy that uses vision to treat the function in hemiplegia or the pain that people with amputated limbs sometimes feel in their missing limbs. The principle of mirror therapy (MT) is the use of a mirror to create a reflective illusion of an affected limb in order to trick the brain into thinking movement has occurred without pain, or to create positive visual feedback of a limb movement. It involves placing the affected limb behind a mirror, which is sited so the reflection of the opposing limb appears in place of the hidden limb.
- Cold and hot patches:
– Cold treatment reduces inflammation by decreasing blood flow. Apply within 48 hours after an injury. Heat treatment promotes blood flow and helps muscles relax. Use for chronic pain.
– Heat therapy works by improving circulation and blood flow to a particular area due to increased temperature. Increasing the temperature of the afflicted area even slightly can soothe discomfort and increase muscle flexibility. Heat therapy can relax and soothe muscles and heal damaged tissue.
- Soft splints therapy prevents a body part from moving, according to theory that the treatment of patients is affected by allowing other parts movement. The splint is made of a soft material like tape, a bandage, a sling or a pillow.
- Soft tissue mobilization also known as therapeutic massage is used to help manage a health condition or enhance wellness. It involves manipulating the soft tissues of the body. Massage has been practiced in most cultures, both Eastern and Western, throughout human history, and was one of the earliest tools that people used to try to relieve pain.
- C.I.M.T. – constraint induced movement therapy is a form of rehabilitation therapy that improves upper extremity function in stroke and other central nervous system damage victims. CIMT is a specialized approach used to increase the use of a limb affected or weakened as the result of a stroke or brain injury and aims at decreasing the effects of learned non-use.
The most familiar approaches in rehabilitation are:
- NDT – neurodevelopmental treatment concerns patients in any age who have central or peripheral nervous system disorders and is based on normal development. Bobath concept is a problem-solving approach used in the evaluation and treatment of individuals or children with movement and postural control disturbances due to a lesion of the central nervous system. It is named after Berta and Karel Bobath, who developed this approach for effective management of neuro-motor dysfunctions manifested by children with cerebral palsy (CP). Earlier, braces, passive stretching, and surgery were the most common forms of interventions. Neurodevelopmental treatment is based on the premise that the presence of normal postural reflex mechanisms is fundamental to a motor skill’s performance. The normal postural reflex mechanisms consist of righting and equilibrium reactions, reciprocal innervation, and coordination patterns. The release of abnormal tone and tonic reflexes seen in CP interfered with the development of righting and equilibrium reactions.
- PNF – proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation concerns patients who suffer from CNS and PNS dysfunctions. PNF involves both stretching and contracting (activation) of the muscle group being targeted in order to achieve maximum static flexibility. PNF is designed to increase flexibility of muscles and range of movement. PNF was initially developed by physiotherapists as a method of rehabilitating stroke victims and refers to any of the several post-isometric relaxation stretching techniques. The technique calls for the muscle to be stretched again, passively throughout the increased range of motion gained on each repetition. This approach is better for patients who can respond to a command.
- S.I. – sensory integration therapy concerns children and adults who deal with the brain’s receiving and processing sensory information disorders. Sensory integration therapy aims to help patients with sensory processing issues by exposing them to sensory stimulation in a structured, repetitive way. The theory behind it is that over time, the brain will adapt and allow the patient to process and react to sensations more efficiently. This technique is better for difficulties like autism, ADHD, psychomotor dysfunctions and others similar to them.
- Osteopathy which is a holistic and integrated approach and concerns almost every disability in the orthopedic field. Osteopathy is a type of alternative medicine that emphasizes physical manipulation of the body’s muscle tissue and bones. Practitioners of osteopathy are referred to as osteopaths. Its name derives from Ancient Greek “bone” (ὀστέον) and “sensitive to” or “responding to” (-πάθεια). An osteopath aims to restore the normal function and stability of the joints to help the body heal itself. The osteopath uses their hands to treat your body in a variety of ways, using a mixture of gentle and forceful techniques. Techniques are chosen based on the individual patient and the symptoms they have reported.
- OMT – orthopedic manipulative therapy (aka manual therapy), is a physical treatment primarily used by physical therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists to treat musculoskeletal pain and disability. Treatment may include moving joints in specific directions and at different speeds to regain movement (joint mobilization and manipulation), muscle stretching, passive movements of the affected body part, or having the patient move the body part against the therapist’s resistance to improve muscle activation and timing. Selected specific soft tissue techniques may also be used to improve the mobility and function of tissue and muscles.
- VMT – Visceral manipulation therapy cures problems in the visceral which is believed to be related with many orthopedic and neurokinetic dysfunctions.“Viscera” relates to the internal organs of the body. Visceral Manipulation, or VM, does not focus solely on the site of pain or dysfunction, but evaluates the entire body to find the source of the problem. The VM therapist feels for altered or decreased motion within the viscera, as well as restrictive patterns throughout the body and then applies VM techniques. VM therapy re-establishes the body’s ability to adapt and restore itself to health. VM is a soft hands-on manual therapy. Underneath the pain or diagnosis is a compensatory pattern created in the body with the initial source of the dysfunction often being far from where the pain is felt. Because of this, the practitioner searches for this pattern and the source, and treats the related tissues. The treatment is a gentle compression, mobilization and elongation of the soft tissues. As the source of the problem is released, the symptoms will start to decrease as the body returns to greater health. This could take several days to occur after the Visceral Manipulation treatment.
- CST – craniosacral therapy release is about the craniosacral rhythm and it concerns neuromuscular and orthopedic disorders even from birth. Craniosacral therapy (CST) is a form of bodywork or alternative therapy that uses gentle touch to palpate the synarthrodial joints of the cranium. It is based on fundamental misconceptions about the physiology of the human skull and is promoted as a cure-all for a variety of health conditions. CST was invented in the 1970s by John Upledger, an osteopathic physicia
Physiotherapy can help us be stronger, healthier, independent, more flexible, and active.
Physiotherapists work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, private clinics, schools, child development centers, public health units, sports clinics, universities etc.
When do I need physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy is for anyone in any age that needs help to move and function when they feel pain and can’t be active in normal motor patterns.
Physiotherapy can prevent injuries and promote normal motor patterns through physical rehabilitation in daily life activities.
In conclusion anyone having problems moving, functioning, being active or being healthy in general, may need physiotherapy even from birth.
Most common dysfunctions that need physiotherapy treatment are:
- Cardiorespiratory dysfunction is the name for the group of disorders of heart and blood vessels, and include: hypertension (high blood pressure) coronary heart disease (heart attack) cerebrovascular disease (stroke) etc.
- Neurological disability aka Neurological disorders are diseases of the central and peripheral nervous system such as acute spinal cord injury, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Ataxia, brain tumors, cerebral aneurysm, epilepsy and seizures, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, dementia, brain injuries and other similar nerve dysfunctions.In other words, the brain, spinal cord, cranial nerves, peripheral nerves, nerve roots, autonomic nervous system, neuromuscular junction, and muscles, Mobility problems such as sports injuries, back pain, cervical spine pain etc.
- Syndromes are a set of medical signs and symptoms which are correlated with each other and often associated with a particular disease or disorder. The word derives from the Greek σύνδρομον, meaning “concurrence”. Genetic disorders can be the result of genetic abnormalities such as gene mutation or additional chromosomes such as Angelman syndrome, Down syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy etc.
- Injury trauma is a term which refers to physical injuries of sudden onset and severity which require immediate medical attention. The insult may cause systemic shock called “shock trauma”, and may require immediate resuscitation and interventions to save life and limb. There are many causes of injury trauma including falls, motor vehicle collisions, stabbing wounds, sports injuries
- Scoliosis is a medical condition in which a person’s spine has a sideways curve.While scoliosis can be caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, the cause of most scoliosis is unknown, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
- Spinal cord’s dysfunctions can originate from either outside or inside the spinal cord. Damage from the outside of the cord is caused by compression of the spinal cord or injury. The spinal cord may be compressed due to a bone fracture, spinal degeneration, or abnormalities, such as a hematoma, tumor or herniated disk.
The aim of physiotherapeutic intervention is to facilitate people achieve their goals in levels where physiotherapy is no longer needed.
How often should I get Physiotherapy?
The rehabilitation program depends on the condition of the patient, the dysfunction, the muscular system and everything that concerns the problem itself.
In nerve dysfunction disabilities, it will probably need more sessions than an orthopedic rehabilitation program, and it will defer from a post-surgery rehabilitation program.
What is the role of the physiotherapist?
The role of a Physiotherapist, as a health professional, varies. The physiotherapist has to diagnose problems, implement an intervention program, assess the physical condition, prevent injuries and help the patient stay healthy.
Physiotherapy needs continuing education. In today’s practice, physiotherapists specialize in different methods and on specific disabilities.
Physiotherapists also spend a lot of their time educating patients, their families and helping people lead healthy lives.
Physiotherapists are highly trained health professionals who provide treatment for people suffering from different physical problems. The physiotherapist’s purpose is to improve a person’s quality of life.
With physiotherapy you can only be better.