If you’ve been referred to a physiotherapist for the first time, you may have some questions about what this therapy is, what the it treats, and more.
We’ve put together this short guide on these and other commonly asked questions about physiotherapy. Let’s get started.
What is Physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy is a healthcare profession that uses science-based methods to help with recovery from injury, disability or even illnesses. The goal of physiotherapy is to restore a person’s movement and aid functional abilities.
This is a medical profession that is independent of other professional healthcare options. Physiotherapists make decisions on the best type of therapy for individual patients. Throughout the treatment process, physiotherapists assess their patient’s progress, and make adjustments to the therapy when needed.
In other words, if you have an injury, disability or an illness that interferes with your movements and the way your body functions, then physiotherapy can help restore the body and patient. This type of therapy can also help to reduce future injuries or illnesses. Physiotherapists use a holistic approach when treating patients, while including the patient in their own treatment and care.
Are Physiotherapists Require to Be Certified or Registered?
Yes, all physiotherapists in the UK must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) in order to legally practice physiotherapy.
In addition, physiotherapists are required to undergo specialised training. In order to obtain a physiotherapist degree in the UK, individuals are required to complete an approved degree in physiotherapy.
This can be done through a part- or full-time course, or a degree apprenticeship in physiotherapy. Full time degrees take three years, while part-time degrees vary—they may take between four and six years to complete.
Physiotherapists may work independently, or be part of a team working in:
- Community health centres or clinics
- Some GP surgeries
- Sports teams, clubs, charities, workplaces
In addition, there are physiotherapists who even offer home visits.
Physiotherapists assess, treat, and manage their patients, who may suffer from a wide variety of health issues.
What Does Physiotherapy Treat?
Physiotherapy can be used to treat and improve a wide variety of health conditions including:
- Brain or nervous system (such as problems with movement due to stroke, MS, or Parkinson’s)
- Heart and circulation issues (rehabilitation after a heart attack, chronic heart disease)
- Bones, joints and soft tissue (back, neck, and shoulder pain, sports injuries, arthritis)
- Breathing issues (COPD, asthma, cystic fibrosis)
Physiotherapists treat health conditions that are often associated with bones, nerves, muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and joints.
Physiotherapists can also make recommendations on posture issues, educate, and manage health conditions. For instance, a physiotherapist may offer guidance on issues that affect your health each day, including posture, correct lifting and carrying techniques.
They can also recommend exercises that work to strengthen parts of your body, improve mobility, while also improving your overall wellbeing. These may include activities such as walking, swimming, and even hydrotherapy (exercises done in a pool of warm, shallow water).
Hydrotherapy is especially helpful for rheumatoid, orthopaedic and neurological conditions. The resistance and buoyancy of the water allow the patient’s muscles to work in a low-gravity environment. This works to take the pressure and stress off injured, painful areas. Hydrotherapy works to increase circulation, improve breathing, relieve pain, improve range of motion, as well as strengthen muscles.
Exercises are often prescribed to improve different types of problems such as improving range of motion, strength, sensibility, coordination, balance and more. Physical exercises are highly effective for these types of issues. They also help prevent future injuries and are great for managing chronic conditions.
Physiotherapists may also recommend certain medical aids, such as crutches or a cane to help you get around better.
Physiotherapists may also be required to use their hands to help relieve pain and stiffness, which may include some types of massage or other types of manipulations. They also use this type of therapy to increase circulation, help fluid drain from different areas of the body, work to improve movement in other parts of the body, and help you relax.
Manual therapy is done through the application of controlled passive movements that work to loosen injured joints and tissues. Passive movements are those that are done by someone else, rather than by the patient. The physiotherapist may use small, repetitive movements on joints. These are called mobilisation techniques.
Other techniques can include:
- TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation): this is a small device that is used to deliver a very mild electric current to the area that needs to be treated for pain.
- Ultrasound: high frequency sound waves are used to treat deep tissue issues such as injuries. The sound waves work to improve circulation to the affected area, as well as improve cell activity. This therapy is used to relieve muscle spasms, pain and to speed up the healing process.
Does a Patient Need a Referral from a Doctor to Visit a Physiotherapist?
No, a patient doesn’t need a doctor’s referral to see a physiotherapist. Physiotherapists are independent medical professionals, much like dentists and other professional healthcare providers. All you have to do is call the physiotherapist’s office and book an appointment.
It’s also possible to see a physiotherapist through NHS and occupational health plans. In these cases, you are usually referred to the physiotherapist by another medical professional.
Please keep in mind that not all areas of the UK allow for self-referral to a physiotherapist. In these locations, you will need a referral from your GP or your local NHS CCG.
To find a physiotherapist near you, use this helpful NHS tool: Find Physiotherapy Services. All you have to do is enter your location to find a physiotherapist in your area.
As you can see, physiotherapists professional healthcare providers who are required to be licensed to practice in the UK. They can treat a wide range of medical conditions, and they have various techniques to apply to help you feel better and find relief from pain.
And remember, if you have any questions about side effects from treatments, worrisome pain, and more, don’t hesitate to call your physiotherapist and let them know. They’ll be happy to answer your questions and find the right therapy to keep you comfortable as you heal.