What you Need to Know about Physiotherapy
What is physiotherapy? Many of us already know that physical activity is great for our overall health and wellness and that it helps prevent chronic diseases, injuries and disability. That’s essentially what physiotherapy is all about – it is a primary care, client-centered health profession that focuses on improving quality of life through movement and other forms of therapeutic treatment. Physiotherapy has been proven to be effective in assessing, diagnosing, and treating both acute and chronic conditions. It also plays a large role in preventing injury and disability (also called “pre-hab”) and promoting health and general wellness.
What are physiotherapists and what do physiotherapists do? Physiotherapists are regulated primary health care professionals that work closely with patients to help them achieve their health goals and independence. Physiotherapists are able to analyze the impact of injury, disorders and lifestyle of a patient based on their movement and function. They also use assessment skills and tools to help diagnose conditions and in turn, they develop treatments to help patients reach their goals. One of the goals of physiotherapists is to almost always encourage and help patients become responsible for their health and to restore or improve their functional abilities.
Who benefits from physiotherapy? In general, everyone can benefit from physiotherapy! Although physiotherapists are more commonly known for helping people heal after an injury (i.e, if you have a sore shoulder, you can go see a physiotherapists and they will assess and treat your shoulder), anyone with an injury, illness, disability, or health condition can benefit from physiotherapy. Even though helping people heal and manage their conditions is a large part of a physiotherapist’s practice, they also provide health services including health promotion and prevention. Therefore, physiotherapists see patients of all ages, from babies to geriatrics, in a variety of settings with both acute and chronic conditions. More examples of individuals who can benefit from physiotherapy are people with arthritis, repetitive strain injuries, heart conditions, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), diabetes, cerebral palsy, stoke, and even pregnant women before and after they give birth.
What does “pre-hab” mean? “Pre-hab” or prehabilitation focuses on exercise for strength, flexibility, motor control (and more) before an injury occurs. It’s rehabilitating pre injury, or pre condition. In the sports world, this may look something like conditioning in the off season to prepare for regular season in order to reduce the risk of injuries. An example of “pre-hab” in the rehabilitation world would be to provide a patient with education and exercises in order to help them prepare for surgery. Pre-hab can help reduce the risk of complications and can actually decrease recovery time as well as help improve the transition back home. Therefore, pre-hab can be beneficial for many individuals.
Physiotherapists use exercise for injury rehabilitation, but shouldn’t you rest when you have an injury? The answer to that is: It depends on your injury. For example, if you sprained your ankle, your physiotherapist will recommend that you stay away from any strenuous activities in order to allow your ankle to heal. At the same time, however, your physiotherapist will also give you safe exercises and prescribe other therapeutic treatments in order to help your ankle heal properly and as quickly as possible to get you back to your previous function.
Another condition where people think they need to rest is when they have osteoarthritis. In fact, rest is one of the last things physios will recommend for arthritis. Time and time again exercise, including strengthening and stretching have proven to help people with arthritis manage their pain and increase their function.
However, it is important to note that everyone is different and every injury and condition affects people differently. This is one of the reasons it’s really important to go see your physiotherapist as they will complete a full assessment and create an individualized rehab program specifically for you.
Therefore, in general, yes, rest is important to help structures heal, but the proper movements and exercises are more important for helping people heal and getting people back to their activities and everyday lives.
Where can we find physiotherapists? Where do they work? The College of physiotherapists of Ontario’s website has a “find a physiotherapist tool.” The website is www.collegept.org and this is where you’d go to find a registered physiotherapist working near you and to ensure your physiotherapist is a regulated health care professional.
In terms of where physiotherapists work, they work everywhere! You can find physiotherapists working in private clinics, home care, public settings (i.e. our hospitals here along the north shore), in health promotion and management jobs, as educational teachers and researchers as well as in all levels of the school systems. Physios are typically involved with sports teams as well but can also be hired to work at company worksites or even for insurance companies.
How can you make a physiotherapy appointment? This will depend on where you live. As mentioned, physiotherapists are primary health care providers which means you can go straight to a physiotherapist without needing a physician’s referral. However, in smaller centers like Marathon, Terrace Bay, and the other towns along the north shore, the hospital is the only place to access outpatient physiotherapy services. Since hospitals are publicly funded, this means that you need a referral from a physician before you can get an appointment to see a physiotherapist who works in a hospital setting.
Another important point for people to know and understand is, given the fact that the physiotherapy services are publicly funded, and that there only 1 or 2 physiotherapists in each community across the north shore, you will likely be put on a wait list. The wait lists work just like an emergency department in that all the referrals that are receive are triaged. That means people who meet certain criteria will move to the front of the wait list in order to be seen quicker. For instance, if you just had surgery, you would be prioritized to the front of the list so you would be seen as soon as possible. This policy ensures people are getting the proper care they require based on their conditions.
Does it cost anything to go to physiotherapy? Typically, there is a fee associated with physiotherapy as it is a fee for service, just as if you were to go see a chiropractor or massage therapist. If you go to a private clinic for physiotherapy you will pay for each visit. In our smaller communities across the north shore, however, our hospitals provide outpatient physiotherapy for the members of the community at no cost. This applies to all hospitals in Ontario. If you are in hospital and need physiotherapy, you will receive the physiotherapy care you need to help you get back home.
Where can we go for more information about physiotherapy?
Physio can Help website: www.physiocanhelp.ca
College of physiotherapists of Ontario website: www.collegept.org
Canadian Physiotherapy Association: www.physiotherapy.ca