Everything you need to know about physiotherapy and its practitioners
What is Physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy is a branch of health science, closely related to biomechanics and sport science, in which practitioners study the science of movement and learn how to identify the root cause of an injury or chronic pain. Physiotherapy seeks to treat injury, disease, disorders, ageing and disabilities with physical treatments, including massage, exercise, manipulation and other treatments, rather than with surgical intervention or prescription medication.
The goal of physiotherapy treatment is to improve a person’s quality of life by employing a range of treatments designed to reduce or eliminate pain and restore physical function, or to alleviate the effects of any dysfunction or disorder.
What is a Physiotherapist?
Physiotherapists are allied health professionals who specialise in the structure of the human body and its movement (biomechanics), with a focus on prevention and rehabilitation. They assess, diagnose, plan and manage the treatment of people of all ages who are suffering from a wide range of problems caused by injury, disability or disease processes – for example, sports injuries, musculoskeletal problems from overuse, and a variety of chronic health conditions. Physiotherapists may also perform occupational health assessments and prescribe, or provide guidance on, injury prevention activities.
Physiotherapists use extensive clinical and physiological knowledge, evidence-based practice, and a variety of therapies to treat a wide range of injuries and health issues, primarily treating conditions such as:
- Problems with muscles, ligaments, joints, and bones, such as arthritis, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis
- Sports injuries
- Chronic health conditions, such Parkinson’s disease
- Chronic pain, such as lower back pain
- Pelvic issues, such as bladder and bowel problems related to childbirth (for example, prolapses)
- Pain, stiffness, swelling, fatigue and loss of muscle strength
- Loss of mobility – related to neuromuscular conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS), neurological movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, and trauma to the spine or brain
Though more commonly treated by exercise physiologists your physiotherapist can also help in the treatment of:
- Overweight and obesity
- Pulmonary (lung) conditions, including asthma and COPD
- Cardiovascular conditions, including heart disease
- Long covid symptoms
- Exercise prescription for cancer or palliative care during or after treatment
What does a Physiotherapist do?
Physiotherapists diagnose and manage a wide variety of conditions associated with muscles, bones, nerves and other systems of the body. The physiotherapist assesses the individual’s condition and current capabilities and assists them to manage their physical condition or problems – regardless of whether these problems are congenital, have been in existence for some time, or are recent issues caused by an accident, injury or surgery.
Physiotherapists are trained to formulate individual care and treatment programs that manage the risk factors posed by co-morbidities and physical limitations resulting from chronic conditions, by providing lifestyle advice and prescribing exercises and aids to assist clients to move more safely and manage mobility and daily tasks and activities. Some physiotherapists work with children who have mobility issues, and work with parents to teach them how they help to improve their child’s physical condition and overall quality of life.
Physiotherapists practice in public and private hospitals, rehabilitation clinics, residential aged care facilities, community health centers, and athletic training and sports medicine facilities. Physiotherapists also work in private practices, often practicing within multi-disciplinary teams – for example, co-located in clinics with doctors, exercise physiologists, remedial massage therapists and/or chiropractors. This enables the physiotherapist to work in consultation with other physical health and exercise specialists to:
- plan and manage the care of individuals with musculoskeletal and neurological problems
- provide health promotion education and offer advice on recommended lifestyle modifications
- prescribe and supervise tailored interventions, exercise and other therapies, appliances or aids to help improve an individual’s health, wellbeing, mobility, strength and conditioning, endurance and performance
- assist with rehabilitation following musculoskeletal injury, stroke and surgery
What training or qualifications do Physiotherapists require?
Physiotherapists are university-educated physical health practitioners with an in-depth knowledge of human physiology and disease processes, extensive training in exercise prescription and use of a variety of therapies to treat acute injuries and chronic conditions.
Students typically complete four years’ undergraduate education and training via a bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy, however it is also possible to enter the profession through a masters or professional doctorate program of study. It is a requirement of the approved programs of study and professional accreditation that students undertake hundreds of hours of supervised practice in a clinical setting.
Are Physiotherapists registered or accredited?
It is a legal requirement that physiotherapists are registered with the National Physiotherapy Board of Australia. After the practitioner has registered with the Board the practitioner is also entered into the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) register of health professionals.
Registration is contingent upon the physiotherapist completing a program of study approved by the Physiotherapy Board of Australia. In order to register and then maintain their annual registration requirements, the practitioner must meet professional standards of practice for ongoing professional development, recent practice, criminal history and adherence to the Board’s Code of Conduct. Practicing physiotherapists must also maintain professional indemnity insurance.
Physiotherapists are eligible to apply for membership of the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) – the peak body representing Australian physiotherapists and their patients – but membership of the APA is not a requirement for registration or practicing as a physiotherapist.
When should I see a Physiotherapist?
Physiotherapists treat both acute and chronic problems, to help heal injuries and improve chronic conditions over time. They can also provide preventative assistance to help you move better and reduce your risk of sustaining future injuries, by evaluating your biomechanics and coaching you on the correct way to move.
As primary health providers, it is not necessary to get a referral to see a physiotherapist – simply book an appointment. However, depending on the nature of your issue, it may also be advisable for you to consult with your GP or other medical professional to discuss your problem and get advice on managing your condition.
Physiotherapy at Transcend Health
If you are wanting to start or return to a physical exercise program, it’s important to consult a physical health practitioner before you begin, to ensure you move safely and incorporate the right exercises for your personal physical fitness needs.
The physiotherapists at Transcend Health can design a personalised treatment plan, targeted at your individual issues. This could include a series of consultations where the physiotherapist uses a variety of treatment options to assist with rehabilitation or recovering or maintaining mobility, combined with the prescription of a therapeutic exercise program to help you prevent or manage chronic health conditions, lose weight, treat pain and injuries, and improve your overall fitness, health, and wellbeing.
If you’d like to find out more about physiotherapy and how it can help you achieve your personal health and fitness goals, call Transcend Health on 02 4961 3399. Alternatively, complete our online contact form to send us a message and one of our team will contact you shortly.