The branch of healthcare that deals with physical disorders are called Physiotherapy, it treats by optimizing movement and function of the body or different body parts. It includes physical means and techniques for evaluation, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of various diseases and injuries. Often, it is called physical therapy.
As described earlier, physiotherapy primarily focuses on restoration of movement. For this, physiotherapists (professionals who undertake physiotherapy) use a variety of manual therapies, exercises and education. They have a holistic approach towards treatment, instead of focusing on just a specific body part, they perceive the patient's condition as a whole. Top physiotherapists also share advice on how to improve the health and well being in general. For example, patients who have chronic back pain may also be encouraged to lose weight and learn core exercises to strengthen the abdominal and back muscles. The treatment is equally dependent on the patient as on the doctor, as patients themselves have to show will power and commitment to move and also in other aspects of therapy. It's a type of treatment where sometimes the result is more dependent on the patient rather than the doctor.
Physiotherapy works on a multidisciplinary aspect, the rehabilitation team usually includes physicians, nurses, therapists and other healthcare professionals. They who work together to formulate a patient-centred treatment plan based on the patient's specific symptoms and needs. Communication is the key to the success of physiotherapy. So physiotherapist cooperates with the rest of the team, the patient, and even the patient's family regarding his disorder. This therapy is a cycle of goals, practice, re-assessments and then new goals, the end result is met by meeting small goals.
Physiotherapy sessions are usually bi-weekly or tri-weekly. However, some long-standing conditions may need more regular treatments. Depending upon the injuries, the physiotherapist will suggest some assistive devices, such as crutches, wheelchairs, and even prosthetic limbs. He/She might provide you with it, but surely make you learn how to use it completely. To prevent chronic inflammation, scar tissue, and adhesions, treatment is started early.
In recent times, physiotherapy is available in different settings and healthcare sectors, like public and private hospitals, health clinics, community centers, sports clubs, rehabilitation facilities, and even in some offices and schools.
The most common factors that decide the length of physiotherapy are:
- Degree of your injury or impairments
- Present status
When should you see a Physiotherapist?
For an individual, there are multiple instances when he/she will need a physiotherapist, like after an injury or during chronic or prolonged pain or because of the development of medical conditions such as heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. From children to the elderly, everyone can opt for physiotherapy.
Physiotherapists address a broad range of health disorders, these include neurologic, musculoskeletal, respiratory and cardiovascular. Neurological physiotherapy is for treating patients with Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and cerebrovascular disease or stroke. Musculoskeletal physiotherapy, on the other hand, manages arthritis, chronic back pains, sports-related injuries, and trauma. Respiratory physiotherapy takes care of the pulmonary system and assists in improving diseases such as asthma and cystic fibrosis. Cardiovascular physiotherapy is for those patients who are recovering from a heart attack or open-heart surgery.
Apart from these, physiotherapists also assist with mental health, intensive care, postoperative care, and even health in the workplace. Physiotherapists can join research, education or service if they want to shift for a non-clinical aspect of medical care.
To help you recover from your illness physiotherapists will use a wide range of approaches and techniques. The most common and their first preference is exercise. They have different exercises depending upon the patient's specific requirements. The focus is to strengthen the affected body parts and encourage patients to move around. The patient may also be encouraged to engage in moderate activities, for example walking, which helps in improving mobility. Fro strengthening the muscles and clearing the airway, breathing exercises and techniques are taught. Exercises are regularly repeated for a certain period of time to produce favourable results.
As discussed earlier physiotherapy also includes manual therapy. It is done to stretch the joints for improving the motion and mobility of certain body parts. This also reduces pain and increases blood circulation in different areas of the body. Massage is the best example of manual therapy.
Physiotherapists also make use of a number of other methods of treatment. These include:
- Acupuncture is a treatment which uses very fine needles to stimulate different points in the body for treating pain and inflammation as well as promote relaxation.
- Ultrasound, using sound waves to penetrate the deep tissues for promoting blood flow, cell activity, and regeneration
- Cold/ Ice therapy is an effective way to reduce and prevent inflammation following an injury. It simply means to apply eyes. Cold therapy won't allow the joint to be restrictive, which will further help in manual therapy. Swelling in the soft tissues can be significantly reduced by applying cold packs in the inflamed areas.
- Heat therapy is to limit the pain to the minimum and increase mobility, it is done after manual therapies and stretching.
- Hydrotherapy is a therapy in which gentle water pressure is used for increasing blood circulation and induce relaxation. At the same time, it also strengthens muscle groups and improves coordination
Physiotherapists may also use TENS or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, this is a method of using a mild burst of electrical energy to decrease pain sensation.