In essence, physiotherapy aims to help restore both function and movement for patients affected by disability, illness, and injury.
Physiotherapists make use of exercise and movement, education and advice, and manual therapy to achieve their objectives.
Utilizing their skills and knowledge, physiotherapists helps improve conditions associated with different body systems such as:
- Neuromusculoskeletal (sports injuries, arthritis, back pain, whiplash associated disorder)
- Respiratory (cystic fibrosis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Neurological (Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, stroke)
- Cardiovascular (chronic heart disease, rehabilitation after a heart attack)
What are some of the techniques used in physiotherapy?
Physiotherapists don’t focus on the individual aspects of the disease but considers the body as a whole.
Some of the key approaches used in physiotherapy include:
- Physical activity, tailored exercises and movement advice – exercises may be recommended to strengthen certain body parts and to improve mobility and general health.
- Manual therapy – physiotherapists use their hands to relieve stiffness and pain and encourage better body movement.
- Education and advice – physiotherapists can provide advice on things that can affect the patient’s day-to-day activities (correct lifting or carrying techniques, proper posture, etc.)
Other techniques may also be introduced like acupuncture or hydrotherapy.
Education and advice
Since a holistic approach is used in physiotherapy, giving general advice (i.e. maintaining a healthy weight, adapting an exercise regimen, etc.) on improving the patient’s overall well-being is considered an integral part of the treatment.
Movement and exercises
Physiotherapists may recommend exercises and movement that aims to improve function and mobility. This can include:
- Activities that entail moving the entire body (swimming, walking, and other exercises that can help those recovering from an injury or operation that affects the mobility)
- Exercises that can help increase physical activity (the importance of staying active will be emphasized and techniques on how to carry out exercises in a safe and effective way will be provided)
- Exercises that are designed to improve strength and movement in specific body parts (exercises of this nature often need to be repeated regularly for a set time length)
- Providing patient with mobility aids (this can include walking sticks and crutches to help the patient move around more efficiently)
- Aquatic therapy or hydrotherapy (exercises done in the water will not only help support and relax the joints and the muscles, it also provides resistance needed while healing)
The technique physiotherapists employ to massage, mobilize, and manipulate the body’s tissues is called manual therapy.
Manual therapy can help:
- Relieve stiffness
- Alleviate pain
- Enhance blood circulation
- Improve movement of different body parts
- Promote relaxation
How can patients benefit from physiotherapy following a surgery?
One of the aims of physiotherapy is to effectively assist patients as they commence doing their routine activities after surgery.
Typical post-operative physiotherapy interventions often involve circulatory exercises, breathing exercises, and early mobilization.
Breathing exercises are recommended to minimize the risk of developing chest infections. These exercises are preferably done while sitting upright and are carried out at least 3 to 5 times daily.
Some of the breathing techniques include:
- Breathing control
- Deep breathing
- The forced expiration technique (huffing with breathing control)
Maintaining blood circulation after surgery is important to help prevent likely complications secondary to immobility like deep vein thrombosis. To aid blood circulation, exercises will be taught by a physiotherapist. The exercises can be done while in the bed or chair and will often need to be repeated at least every 2 hours.
Early mobilization is important in order to minimize post-operative complications, enable a quick recovery as well as timely hospital discharge. A physiotherapist can help gradually increase mobility and might recommend a stair assessment when necessary.