Health > Physiotherapy

What is physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy is a therapeutic health profession that assists people with injuries, pain, stiffness, weakness, and other movement problems. Physiotherapists are university trained and are experts in injury diagnosis, injury treatment, injury prevention, exercise prescription, rehabilitation and many other areas of sport and musculoskeletal health and fitness.

Physiotherapists also have the expertise to assess the underlying causes of musculoskeletal injuries and provide effective, evidence based treatment so you can resume your normal lifestyle as soon as possible with the least likelihood of recurrence. Physiotherapists educate patients and teach them the skills required to take care of their bodies using various tools and methods.

Physiotherapy Treatment

Figure 1 – Physiotherapy Treatment

Physiotherapy treatment techniques

Following injury, physiotherapists use a variety of physiotherapy treatment techniques to hasten the body’s natural healing process and speed recovery. These treatment techniques may include:

  • massage
  • mobilization
  • manipulation
  • exercise prescription
  • stretches
  • electrotherapy
  • hydrotherapy
  • clinical Pilates
  • taping
  • bracing
  • dry needling
  • ice or heat therapy
  • biomechanical correction
  • the use of crutches
  • advice and education
  • a gradual return to sport or activity program

The techniques used for each individual are carefully selected by the treating practitioner based on research demonstrating maximum benefit for their particular condition.

Other areas of physiotherapy

Aside from dealing with musculoskeletal and sports conditions, physiotherapy is also vital to ensure an optimal outcome in patients suffering from conditions in the following medical areas:

  • neurological
  • cardiothoracic
  • paediatrics
  • obstetrics

Seeing a physiotherapist

In Australia you do not need a doctor’s referral to see a physiotherapist, unless you wish to be claiming the injury through insurance as a workplace injury or motor vehicle accident.

All physiotherapists are university educated health practitioners, with entry to the profession being at either Bachelors or Masters Degree level. Many practitioners also undertake further qualifications at Masters or Doctoral level in specialist clinical areas.

When should I see a physio?

There are many instances when it is appropriate and beneficial to consult a physio. Some of these include:

  • If you have sustained an injury
  • If you have swelling, bruising or deformity of a body part
  • If you are experiencing joint stiffness, pain or ache (particularly if your symptoms have persisted for greater than 3 days)
  • If you are limping or protecting a limb due to pain
  • If you are experiencing pins and needles or numbness
  • If your limbs collapse or give way occasionally
  • If you have postural problems
  • If you need advice on improving strength, flexibility, balance or fitness
  • If you need advice on injury prevention or other aspects of musculoskeletal health
  • If you require treatment for an injury
  • If you wish to improve your physical performance for sport
  • If you are planning a return to sport or activity following a prolonged period of inactivity

As a general rule, if you are unsure, it is always better to consult a professional rather than not seek advice.

How can physiotherapy help my injury?

Physiotherapy can ensure your injury is thoroughly assessed and diagnosed correctly. This is essential to ensure the correct treatment techniques are chosen for your condition.

Physiotherapy treatment can hasten your body’s natural healing process, accelerating your return to sport or activity. Appropriate treatment will also reduce the likelihood of recurrence by addressing factors which may have contributed to the development of your condition. Physiotherapists are experts in advising patients on which activities are appropriate for their injury to maximize recovery and ensure an optimal outcome.

Which clinic should I go to for treatment?

Choosing the right clinic for treatment can be difficult. Whilst all physiotherapists are university trained and qualified, it is important to select a practitioner who is trusted, knowledgeable and friendly and can provide the best quality treatment for your injury. When it comes to choosing a physiotherapist there are no hard and fast rules, but some things worth considering include:

  • How long has the physiotherapist been qualified for?
  • Is the practitioner a member of the Australian Physiotherapy Association?
  • Do they have a particular area of expertise?
  • Does the physiotherapist have post-graduate qualifications such as a PHD or Masters?
  • Does the clinic have a multidisciplinary team of professionals? (i.e. are there services for podiatry, massage, clinical Pilates, hydrotherapy, exercise physiology, sports medicine, psychology, personal training, myotherapy etc.?)
  • Have you seen the practitioner before and did you achieve a positive outcome?
  • Have your friends or family had a good experience from that clinic or practitioner before?
  • If you are already seeing a physiotherapist, is your condition getting better and staying better?

Some additional information which may assist you in making your decision may include:

  • How long is an initial consultation?
  • How long is a follow-up consultation?
  • What is the cost for an initial consultation and follow-up consultations?
  • Are there any discounts for concession?
  • Am I able to claim on private health insurance?
  • Are there HICAPS facilities?

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