How can physiotherapy nourish your soul?
Physiotherapy is an allied health discipline centred around helping to relieve pain and restore healthy movement to the body. Physiotherapists apply evidence-based techniques and a detailed understanding of human physiology to support people whose ability to move has been impaired through illness, injury or for other reasons. The ultimate aim is to help people be independent, improve quality of life, reduce pain and support their ability to function as well as possible.
Instead of prescribing medication, practitioners use a wide variety of physical therapy methods ranging from massage and stretches to hot or cold packs, as well as treatments such as hydrotherapy and acupuncture. Some physiotherapists also utilise sophisticated methods including laser therapy and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).
Different types of physiotherapy are specialised for addressing discrete categories of health concerns. The various branches of physiotherapy can support people born with disabilities, those suffering from sports injuries, recovering from stroke or other neurological problems, or who have chronic health concerns such as asthma or diabetes. Other physiotherapists are trained to help children who are facing developmental challenges with various tasks requiring physical coordination, such as learning to walk.
The holistic aspect of this modality is an important part of the physiotherapy definition: practitioners consider an injury or other impediment to healthy movement in the context of your overall wellness. Physiotherapists often work alongside other health professionals such as GPs and medical specialists, in a variety of settings such as specialised clinics, aged-care facilities and hospitals. In Australia, physiotherapy is regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
Benefits of physiotherapy
In a general sense, physiotherapy may represent an alternative to surgery or medication for the purposes of managing pain, increasing mobility and improving bodily function. The education and advice provided by your physiotherapist may also help you prevent injury, and possibly assist you in managing your overall health and wellbeing.
Research has been conducted into the possible benefits of physiotherapy for a wide range of conditions. There is evidence to suggest this modality may improve the mobility and coordination of people suffering from Parkinson’s disease, and may reduce ataxia (difficulty in coordinating voluntary movement) associated with multiple sclerosis.
Research indicates that physiotherapy may offer significant rehabilitation benefits for stroke survivors, and its role in preventing and treating complications of diabetes has also been studied. Evidence suggests that physiotherapy used in conjunction with anti-inflammatory medicine may support greater improvement in mobility and pain reduction related to osteoarthritis than drugs alone. Physiotherapy may also be an effective and low-cost way to improve quality of life for people suffering from asthma.
Physiotherapy can assist in relieving symptoms related to:
- Joint problems
- Lower back pain
- Muscle healing
- Muscle tension and stiffness
- Musculoskeletal problems
- Pain relief
- Sports injuries
- Stroke and hypertension
What to expect from a physiotherapy session
Before beginning physiotherapy, often shortened to ‘physio’, your practitioner will ask you about the overall condition of your health and your medical history, as well as the problem which has prompted you to seek treatment. If you are receiving treatment in a hospital setting or as part of a rehabilitation program after a major illness or injury, your physiotherapist will communicate with other members of your healthcare team.
The practitioner will complete an assessment which may involve asking you to perform certain movements while they note any impediments to natural function and ask you about what motions you have difficulty with or find painful. If your condition might necessitate other forms of treatment besides physio, ranging from X-ray to surgery, your practitioner will refer you to the most suitable health professional for the best outcome.
Once the physiotherapist has reached a diagnosis, they will develop a treatment plan customised to your condition. The treatment itself may involve a diverse variety of techniques depending on your condition. You might be given a massage or support while performing exercises intended to rebuild your strength and balance, or you might be prescribed stretches that you will need to do regularly. Your physiotherapist might also use aids such as parallel bars to help you walk, and will teach you how to use any equipment such as crutches or braces to assist your recovery.
An important part of answering the question “What is physio?” involves mentioning this modality’s emphasis on educating and empowering people to play a part in their own healthcare. This means the practitioner might give you physio exercises to do at home, educate you about ways to prevent a recurrence of injury, and recommend modifications to your lifestyle which will help you maintain long-term health.
All healthcare modalities include some degree of risk, and physiotherapy is no exception. Research suggests it is rare to experience a significant adverse effect as a result of physiotherapy, and in Australia, there are strict guidelines for reporting and risk management. The most common complaint is pain and soreness after physio, which is often an inevitable aspect of the recovery process as your body adapts and rebuilds itself.
As with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing physiotherapy. Don’t hesitate to ask your physiotherapist about your health condition, prescribed exercises, or if you are experiencing any unexpected pain or discomfort. They will be happy to address your concerns and adjust your treatment, or refer you to other healthcare specialists as needed.