A complete Guide To Physiotherapy

By Layana Reghunath

We all have experienced body aches at some point in our lifetime. As we grow old, these pains increase as our bones and muscles weaken over time. Young people also undergo such pains due to sports injuries or chronic illnesses. After consulting your medic, he must have referred you to a physiotherapist. Now, you are in a dilemma whether to go by his words or opt for conventional treatment methods. Keep reading this article to understand physiotherapy and how it will help you lead a better life.

What is physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy is a natural, evidence-based treatment method that helps people recover from the pain caused by injuries or illnesses and restore their overall health without surgery. Physiotherapists are healthcare professionals who have mastered this treatment process and help you resume your everyday active life independently at home and work. In addition, they care for your overall wellness and suggest ways to protect your joints. Here are the four reasons you can consider choosing physiotherapy over other treatment methods.

Physiotherapy helps to heal your body at lightning speed. 

It improves the quality of your life.

It is a one-stop solution for various illnesses and injuries.

Physiotherapy enables you to focus more on your health.

Physiotherapists use various treatment methods like cupping, massage, exercise, stretching and other techniques to help patients recover from the pain caused by ageing, injury or disease. 

How does Physiotherapy help?

Being active is the only way to stay fit, even if you have arthritis. Most of us have the misconception that exercises will worsen your pain and cause muscle damage. But in reality, it is just the opposite. Muscles are designed for mobility and weaken when kept in resting mode. Your physiotherapist will first analyse your physical condition and the problem you are facing and develop suitable treatment techniques. The programme will be tailored according to your potential and needs and will help you achieve your goals. It includes:

Tips for raising your activity level, goal setting and balancing rest and activity.

It helps you avoid sports-related or exercise-related injuries by recommending specific equipment or training for newbies.

It has a specially graded exercise program to improve your fitness, strength, mobility and flexibility. The best part is that you can also do all these exercises at home.

They also provide special therapies like aqua therapy or hydrotherapy, in which you do exercises in a warm water pool.

Helps you in pain management through techniques like massage, heat or ice packs, acupuncture, etc. 

It helps reestablish your mobility and independence by providing walking aids and splints. 

Graded exercise programs

You can follow the graded exercise programmes developed by physiotherapists to build your strength and stamina. Your physio will help you start gently and advance to higher levels without damaging your tissues and causing any pain. Your graded programme usually includes the following:

Stretching exercises are best for joint movements and ease pains and aches.

Stretching exercises for muscle strengthening and joint support.

General fitness exercises for your overall health.

Proprioceptive exercises for balance, agility and coordination.

Your physiotherapists may also recommend you attend nearby classes like yoga, Pilates, and aerobics or join a local sports group. 

Pain relief techniques

Of course, painkillers will help relieve your pain, but they are not suitable for your body in the long run. A physiotherapist can help you with pain relief techniques other than medications. Some of their treatments include:

Ice packs for swollen, hot joints.

Heat packs release the tension in the muscles.

Splints for supporting painful and swollen joints

TENS, also known as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, alter the pain messages sent to your brain. A small electronic device placed under your skin sends pulses to your nerve endings. It gives a soothing effect to many people through its tingling sensation. 

Physios also release the pain by massage as it reduces stiffness and pain, helps to relax the muscles, and improves joint support. 

Acupuncture interferes with pain signals in the brain by releasing natural painkillers known as endorphins. 

Electrotherapy uses low-level laser and ultrasound techniques to fasten the healing process and reduce pain. 

Steroid injections for excruciating joints that are forbidding you from remaining active. 

Who is a physiotherapist?

Experts who perform physiotherapy are physiotherapists. They are highly trained in all sorts of treatment plans to relieve the pain caused by injury, illness or ageing. They look forward to improving the overall wellness of their patients and try to lessen their physical discomfort. 

Why do you need a physiotherapist?

You usually visit a physiotherapist to heal the pain you have been suffering from for quite some time. But the pain may also be due to some underlying factors. For example, you may suffer back pain due to hours spent in front of a computer, obesity or not working correctly in the gym. A physiotherapist addresses your actual issue and treats your root cause. 

Your general physician may recommend a physio after analysing your age factor. They help you age healthily and work independently for a more extended period. Physios work holistically and ensure an injury-free life throughout. As per recent studies, physiotherapists have cured long-term illnesses like asthma, healed persons who had a sudden injury, assisted women in childbirth, and given the injured sportsperson a new life. 

What is the job of a physiotherapist?

The job of a physiotherapist differs from day to day. Each day will be new to them as they will deal with new patients. The physiotherapist will first analyse the physical condition of the patient and then come up with a treatment plan that is suitable for them. Sometimes they will have to retrain the patient to walk, and other times they will be helping them with crutches, wheelchairs and frames. Physiotherapists are also entitled to issue leave certificates to needy patients.

Some of the common issues they address are:

  • Sports injuries
  • Work-related injuries
  • Post-operative rehabilitation
  • Muscle strains
  • Joint sprains
  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Vertigo
  • Jaw(TMJ) pain
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Tendinosis

Physiotherapists adopt different treatment techniques to help their patients recover from their problems. They suggest treatment plans depending on your body type and the severity of your pain. Some of their treatment methods include:

  • Stretching
  • Functional training
  • Dry needling
  • Massage
  • Self-management strategies
  • Cupping
  • Taping
  • Joint mobilisation
  • Goal setting
  • Workout prescription
  • Lifestyle advice
What to expect while visiting a physiotherapist

Feeling a little anxious for your first visit to a physiotherapist is normal. However, people are usually pleasantly surprised by their treatment plans as they differ slightly from conventional methods. So, if it is your time to visit a physio, here are some factors you need to consider:

  • A usual physiotherapy session may take around 30 to 60 minutes. So it would be best if you come prepared accordingly. Depending on your treatment plans, the therapist may suggest you come once or many times a week.
  • You may be asked to stretch, move or sweat it out in your first PT session. Hence wearing comfortable clothes is a must while attending therapy. Every therapy centre may not have a facility for dressing rooms; enquire before attending one.
  • Remember to carry all your medical records till now to your first PT session.
  • Be ready to answer the questions asked by the physio. You can expect questions like the duration of your pain, its rating from 1-10, and how did it happen? Whom did you consult before? What helps to relieve your pain, and what makes it worse? Does the pain affect your day-to-day activities?
  • In the next stage, PT will consult a physical assessment on you and ask you to perform certain activities to analyse the severity of your problem.
  • If you need prolonged treatment, your physio may suggest some exercises at home before coming for the next session.
  • Your physio may reexamine your condition every time you visit him and then will decide whether you need a follow-up session or not. 
How to become a physiotherapist in India

There has been an enormous demand for physiotherapists in India lately. Here are the steps you must follow if you plan to become one.

Complete your 10th and +2

The minimum qualification of a physiotherapist is 10+2 with a pass percentage of 50%. You must select Physics, Biology and Chemistry as your main subjects and can keep Maths as an optional one. It will come in handy while pursuing higher education. Your knowledge of Physics, Biology and Chemistry will give you a better understanding of physiotherapy.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

After +2, a Bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy will help in attaining your dream of becoming a physiotherapist. You can opt for a Bachelor of Physiotherapy(BPT) or a diploma course in physiotherapy. Both these courses have different entrance examinations. The degree course is a four-year programme with six months of mandatory internship, whereas the diploma course is three years. You will be taught sociology, exercise therapy, physiotherapy orientation, allied therapies, clinical training, and other relevant subjects during this time. 

Gain a Master’s Degree

A Master’s degree in physiotherapy(MPT) will earn you more points while job hunting. You can pursue a Master of physiotherapy or a postgraduate diploma for a better career. Both courses are for two years and have separate entrance examinations. It will help you to go deeper into physiotherapy and help you specialise in subjects like orthopaedic, sports, geriatric, clinical electrophysiology, and paediatric physiotherapy. With a Master’s degree, you can get into senior positions in various medical centres and hospitals.

Earn experience

Experience matters a lot in every field, and physiotherapy is no different. After undergoing the six months compulsory internship during the Bachelor’s degree, you must also gain adequate experience by working in small clinics, athletic centres, gyms, etc. In addition, special schools and care homes need physiotherapists. Working in such places will give you the required experience and mental satisfaction. Moreover, most big hospitals and medical centres are looking for experienced professionals in the relevant field. Therefore, your expertise will help you land your first big job. 

What are the different specialisation programmes in physiotherapy?

There are eight different specialisations for physiotherapy in India. They are:

  • Paediatrics physiotherapy
  • Sports physiotherapy
  • Women’s Health and Obstetrics Physiotherapy
  • Neurological Physiotherapy
  • Geriatric Physiotherapy
  • Orthopaedic/Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy
  • Community Physiotherapy
  • Cardiovascular Physiotherapy

If you are also looking for a physiotherapist, follow the steps below for a faster recovery.

  • Be regular and punctual in your sessions.
  • Show dedication to your treatment plans. If your PT recommends a few exercises at home before your next session, work on them and follow them strictly.
  • Believe in your body and your instincts. The body may warn you of overload if you find the session too exhausting. At such times you may have to switch your physio. 
  • Communicate with your physio about you are feeling after every session. After all, only you can understand yourself better. Choose a PT who takes time to listen to you and your feelings. Only then can you work together and [produce good results. 
Do I need a referral from another doctor to consult a physiotherapist?

Ans: The law is different in different countries. It would be better to call and enquire directly from a PT office. 

How do I find a physiotherapist near me?

Ans: You can take inputs from your general practitioner and search the internet for better results.

Does physiotherapy come under insurance?

Ans: A majority of sessions are insurance covered. For more details, you call up to the nearest physiotherapy centres.

How long do people have to take physiotherapy sessions?

Ans: Well, the answer to this question depends on why a person is taking physiotherapy in the first place. If a senior citizen with severe arthritis is coming for a session, they might have to go weekly for healthy ageing and bone strength. On the other hand, if an athlete approaches a physio with a sports injury, he may have hardly come multiple times a week for 3 to 6 months. 

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