What is Physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy is the treatment of persons debilitated by pain or other conditions which adversely affect their motor functions by the application of heat and exercise. Physiotherapy assists patients by returning them to a comfortable and productive life, often despite the persistence of a medical condition. Physiotherapy relieves pain, improves and maintains strength and mobility, instructs on the most effective method of performing essential activities and tests muscle strength, joint mobility, breathing capacity and muscular co-ordination.
For centuries, man used such natural elements as hot springs and sunlight to treat physical ailments, but the development of modern physiotherapy occurred largely after the two World Wars, when polio and injuries created a large number of young people encumbered by serious physical challenges. Physiotherapy became available for the treatment of patients with such diverse problems as fractures, burns, tuberculosis, back pain, strokes and nerve injuries. Today, physiotherapy is prescribed by physicians and surgeons in all branches of medicine, including: neurology, cardiology, orthopedics, sports, women’s and seniors’ health, and paediatrics. Physiotherapy can also help with:
- swelling in the lymph nods (Lymphedema)
- back, knee, elbow pain and more.
- preventing falls for seniors
- the proper and ergonomic way to use a computer and the correct posture for golfing, gardening, lifting, walking and running so as prevent injury.
- ankle, knee and elbow sprains
- repetitive use strains
- reducing pain during pregnancy.
The first few consultations with a physiotherapist will consist of a thorough evaluation of your condition, which can include an evaluation of your pain and mobility, strength, range of joint movement, the condition of your reflexes as well you your cardio-respitory and sensory status. Your physiotherapist will examine your health record, laboratory tests, x-rays and surgery notes. Based on this assessment, a physiotherapist will put forward a diagnosis and will partner with you to find a treatment program designed to improve your unique set of symptoms and circumstances.
Techniques of Physiotherapy
The techniques most commonly used by physiotherapists include heat, massage, exercise, electrical stimulation and functional training.
Heat is used to stimulate circulation and relieve pain. It may be applied with infrared lamps, short-wave radiation, hot moist compresses, immersion in hot water, ultra-sound or melted paraffin wax.
Massage is used to aid circulation and relieve local pain and muscle spasms. It is usually applied manually by the physiotherapist, but swirling water or mechanical devices may also be used. The most common massage methods are the stroking and kneading of tissues, usually with the aid of a neutral oil lubricant.
Exercise is the most common physiotherapy technique and it is used to increase the amount of motion in a joint, strengthen muscles or to train a muscle to contract and relax in co-ordination with other muscles. Exercises may be performed actively by the patient or passively via manipulation by the physiotherapist. Passive exercise is useful in improving mobility in a joint, but strengthening or training of muscles can only be accomplished through active exercise by the patient. Immersion in warm water and various types of exercise equipment may also be used. Initial exercises may be very simple, but–as the patient improves– they become more complex and strenuous until the body is again capable of meeting the demands of daily activity. Exercise may also be used to improve the patient’s breathing, assist circulation, relax tense muscles and improve incorrect posture.
Currents of very low strength may be applied to muscles near the the surface of the skin, causing them to gently contract spontaneously. This helps to train weakened muscles while also testing the status of the nerves that interact with these muscles. Electrical stimulation can also be used to assist with the penetration of certain medicines into the skin.
Functional training teaches patients– sometimes in spite of physical challenges– to carry out many daily activities safely and effectively. This could mean learning to use crutches, braces or artificial limbs, but can also involve working out and practicing the best way for pregnant mothers to accomplish daily tasks or how a workmen ought to lift heavy loads.