What is a physiotherapist? What do they actually do?
People can tend to associate physiotherapy with something that is only reserved for athletes, and whilst physiotherapists play a very important role in injury management and improving the performance of athletes, physiotherapy can be helpful for a wide variety of people and circumstances.
A physiotherapist is a highly qualified health professional that uses physical assessments and treatments to diagnose and treat the causes of both acute and chronic pain. Physiotherapy treatment uses a combination of active exercise-based treatments and hands-on techniques that aim to decrease pain, improve your mobility and increase your strength, to get you back doing what you love and living young.
Physiotherapists don’t only diagnose and provide rehabilitation for your pain and injuries, but also provide education and advice on how to best manage your pain, the prognosis of your specific injury (how long it will take to recover), and also help to prevent future occurrences of injuries.
Ok, but when should I see a physio and what types of things can they help me with?
Here are 7 surprisingly common reasons to come in and see a physiotherapist to get the help you need:
1 – Chronic Back pain
Pain in the lower back is extremely common, with 1 in 6 Australians suffering from some type of back pain1. However, your persistent back pain or sciatica can be due to a number of different factors, and it may not even be the back itself that is the real culprit behind your pain. Whilst X-rays and other imaging can be used to try and find the source of your back pain, mostly they can show normal signs of ageing and can be totally unrelated to your pain! With up to 30% of 20-year-olds and up to 85% of 80-year-olds showing spinal disc degeneration and bulges even though they have no pain or symptoms2!
Physiotherapists are able to use detailed physical examinations to not only identify what structures are affected, but also find what other factors have contributed to the onset of pain (eg, poor upper back or hip mobility, weak hip muscles, poor movement patterns, etc) and treat these factors to both alleviate your pain and help retrain your movement patterns to prevent it from coming back in the future.
2 – Headaches and Migraines
You shouldn’t put up with persistent headaches and just accept it as part of your normal life. Headaches and migraines can be debilitating and significantly affect your daily life. Physiotherapists can carefully take a detailed history and assess potential triggers for your headaches, helping to narrow down the potential sources, whether it be related to stiff upper neck joints, sustained neck positions during sitting or driving, or pain that starts in the shoulders/neck and travels upwards to the head. Physiotherapists can often provide treatment giving quick and effective results to ease the severity and frequency of headaches and migraines.
3 – Arthritis and Osteoarthritis
Arthritis is a very common condition, particularly among older Australians, causing pain, stiffness and inflammation of the joints. Arthritis is a big contributor to pain and disability in those affected, significantly impacting quality of life. Whilst currently not curable, there is lots of research supporting the use of tailored exercise programs to strengthen the muscles around the affected joints and improve mobility to ease symptoms and have a protective effect to decrease the rate of degeneration.
Physiotherapists can not only help you return to walking and climbing stairs more easily but can also aid you to return to sports and activities that you enjoy that will keep you living and feeling young!
4 – Women’s Health Problems
Issues like incontinence, pelvic floor problems, pelvic organ prolapse, pre-natal and post-natal matters, including abdominal tearing, can dramatically affect your quality of life and your confidence. Specifically, trained women’s health physiotherapists use treatment options and prescribe modified exercise programs to identify, re-train or strengthen those structures affected. This helps to improve your overall quality of life as well as to help prevent complications further down the line that may otherwise require surgical intervention.
5 – Neurological Issues
Brain injuries or peripheral nerve injuries can have a significant effect on your ability to do even the simplest of day to day tasks. Physiotherapists can assess what degree of functioning you have lost and help to re-train some of those skills to increase your independence and quality of life whether it be after a stroke, Bell’s Palsy or even para/quadriplegia.
6 – Sporting injuries
Whether you are a professional athlete or a weekend warrior, injuries are common amongst all levels of sport. Don’t let those injuries or persistent niggles get in the way of you achieving your goals or doing what you love to do!
No matter if your goal is to return to performing at your best, or just to get back out on the field enjoying time with friends, early intervention from a physiotherapist within a few days of the injury can ensure more rapid pain relief and a quicker return to activity. Not only that, but physiotherapists also look away from the injury to address the factors that may have contributed to it in the first place, giving you the tools to help prevent injuring yourself again in the future!
7 – Joint replacement surgery
If you get to the point of having a knee joint or hip joint replaced, chances are you were previously dealing with a significant amount of pain that was limiting your mobility and functioning. After surgery, early physiotherapy treatment (often just one day after surgery!) whilst you’re still in hospital helps to kick start your rehabilitation to get you back moving easily again! Ongoing physiotherapy once you are discharged from hospital is really important to continue improving your joint mobility and strength. This helps to get you back to your day to day tasks like walking and getting up and down stairs with ease, and to also get you back into activities and sports you thought you would have to give up!
Don’t sit back and just accept living pain, and don’t let pain take control of you! Go and see a physiotherapist early to start your recovery as quickly as possible and so that you can then get back to living young!
Book an appointment
If you would like to come in for an assessment with our team and experience for yourself how beneficial it can be to work with a physiotherapist, you can contact us on 02 8607 4000 or request a call by completing this form.
This blog was written by Sam Dally, Physiotherapist at Precision Physio – St Marys and former Australian Triathlete. If you would like more information, or to work specifically with Sam, you can contact him through the Precision Physio St Marys clinic: 02 9623 2220 or book in online.