How Does Physiotherapy Work?

exercise with physiotherapy

Have you ever wondered why athletes and sportspersons need physiotherapy? How does it help us recover from injuries or manage chronic pain? As we grow old, our body sees rapid changes. Considering the lifestyle of most of the population, many need physiotherapy at a considerable rate. Most of the people do not know about physiotherapy.

That is why we, as experts, will get into the basics of physiotherapy, exploring how it works and the benefits it can bring to individuals of all ages and abilities. You may be recovering from a sports injury, seeking relief from physical distress, or want to know about physiotherapy. If you wonder how physiotherapy works, you have landed in the right place.

Understanding the fundamentals of physiotherapy would be beneficial for better health and mobility.
It is a vital healthcare practice all over the world.

Understanding The Basics of Physiotherapy- What Is It?

Physiotherapy, or physical therapy, is a branch of healthcare. It helps improve movement and function through various treatments and exercises. The treatment gives your body a helping hand to heal and regain strength. It involves a deep understanding of human anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics.

Physiotherapy meaning in the dictionary-

“Physical therapy or the treatment of injury, disease, or malformation in a physical manner like heat treatment, massage, and workout instead of taking drugs or having surgery.”

Physiotherapy is an evidence-based profession in the healthcare sector. The physiotherapists work with clients of every age in different conditions. They find valid ways to evaluate, handle, and treat longstanding issues and heal several injuries. It also encourages better health and wellbeing.

The Core Expertise of Physiotherapists:

Physiotherapists have lots of different skills. They know a lot about how the body works and what can go wrong with it. Physiotherapists are good at manual dexterity, communication to help with therapy, and analytical skills to make treatment plans for each person. They also have the skill to understand and be kind to their patients. These skills help them deliver patient-centric care.

The Aim of Physiotherapy:

It aims for remedial healing, maintaining strength, freedom of motion, flexibility, and balance in individuals. Physiotherapists work with their patients through awareness, education, exercise, participation, and various techniques. It has a holistic approach for everyone. Whatever treatment one receives will vary from individual weaknesses, goals, and strengths.

Note that physiotherapists are different from chiropractors. People often need clarification on the two. Chiropractors primarily concentrate on the musculoskeletal system. They use manual manipulative techniques to treat the patient. At the same time, physiotherapists focus on disabilities and impairments of the body. They use diverse methods to better a person’s physical function.

In short, a professional physiotherapist assesses the science of human mobility. They use that science to find specific problems from their roots.

The History of Physiotherapy:

Physiotherapy traces its roots back to the 19th century, with its appearance as a group profession marked by the founding of the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics in Sweden in 1813.

Initially, the mechanism of physiotherapy focused on massage, exercise, and mental manipulation. Later, the profession saw formal recognition with the registration of physiotherapists by Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare 70 years later.

This milestone was soon mirrored in other parts of the world, officially acknowledging physiotherapy as a profession-

  • Great Britain in 1894
  • New Zealand in 1913
  • United States of America in 1914

However, the origins of physiotherapy predate these institutional recognitions, with early interventions like the “gymnastic,” a tool developed in the eighteenth century to promote systemic joint exercise, which found use in treating conditions like gout.

Today, physiotherapy is a worldwide concept. Most of the population swears by it and has seen a notable improvement in daily life. We see a bright future for this profession, with new technologies building up rapidly.

Do Physiotherapists Need Special Training?

Physiotherapists deal with delicate parts of the human body. They must study and get special training from other experts. Yes, physiotherapists require specialised training to effectively diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate patients with various conditions. This specialised training is essential for several reasons.

  1. Physiotherapists grasp how the body moves, functions, and heals. This knowledge forms the basis for designing appropriate treatment plans tailored to particular patients’ needs.
  2. Specialised training prepares physiotherapists with varied techniques, assessments and modalities. These may include manual therapy, therapeutic activities, electrotherapy, Hydrotherapy, and more. Each method requires specific skills to apply safely and successfully. Training ensures that physiotherapists can select and administer the most suitable one.
  3. For collaborative work with other doctors in the multidiscipline healthcare sector, they should have the knowledge to communicate and coordinate their information. It will lead to comprehensive care.
  4. Since physiotherapy is evidence-based, they need to update themselves continually. Continuous learning and professional development are vital for physiotherapists. They will know about the latest research and technology.
  5. Physiotherapists need special training because they deal with several people and situations. It may be dealing with paediatric conditions, geriatric issues, athletic problems, gynaecological conditions, etc. They must have the knowledge to deal with them competently.

In a nutshell, special training is indispensable for physiotherapists. It is beneficial for their career and allows them to give optimal care to the patients.

Physiotherapy- The Assessment And Diagnosis Process

Many professionals and laypersons need to give heed to physiotherapists. It was also once thought to be a sham. But that’s not true. Physiotherapy involves a thorough assessment to understand a person’s condition and needs.

How is physiotherapy conducted? This process helps physiotherapists figure out the best ways to help. Here’s how it typically works-

  • Recording The History

Everyone has a medical history, no matter how big or small. For any new type of treatment, professionals take a patient’s medical history in great detail. The physiotherapist will ask questions about your health history, including any injuries, surgeries, or medical conditions you may have.

They will also ask about your sleep pattern, eating habits, emotional health, current symptoms and how they affect your daily life. Patients should be honest about their present and past medical records as it would affect the treatment.

  • Physical Examination

Next, the physiotherapist will conduct a physical examination. It may involve testing your strength, flexibility, range of motion, balance, and coordination. They may also assess your posture and how you move.

While examining, they may ask questions. Because physiotherapists know everything about the anatomy of the human body, they can grasp which muscle, bone, socket or ligament has issues.

  • Specific Tests

It is not a mandatory step, but some physiotherapists take tests to corroborate a few things or find something fishy. For example, they might use specific tests to assess nerve function, muscle strength, or joint stability.

Often, these tests help in judging and creating a treatment plan. The tests can be medical tests like x-rays, ultrasound, or minor blood tests.

  • Functional Assessment

Functional assessments, like tests, are an essential part of the process. The physiotherapist will evaluate how your condition affects your ability to perform daily activities. They assess how much a specific issue impacts a person’s everyday life.

They will watch you walk, go upstairs, or reach for objects. By observing these activities, they get a better idea of your condition. It helps them tailor your treatment plan to your needs so you can return to doing what you enjoy more comfortably.

  • Diagnosis

Physiotherapists conclude a diagnosis after studying the medical history, mobility levels, and cardiorespiratory and neurological patterns. They put all their efforts into analysing the data they get and then create a clinical judgment.

Therapists mainly provide a functional diagnosis rather than a medical one. For example, they could only determine that there were problems in limb movements due to underlying causes and mostly refrained from medical diagnosis.

Physiotherapists may work with other doctors, study their reports, and plan treatment.

  • Treatment Plan

Finally, after detailed assessment, diagnosis and discussion, physiotherapists conclude. They develop a personalised treatment plan tailored to your needs and goals. It may include different approaches suitable to your body. They may also take low-dose medications if needed.

The plan is a roadmap that outlines the steps you have to take to change the situation positively. They may recommend exercises for target areas. There may be single or combined approaches of exercises, awareness, lifestyle changes and manual therapies.

So, this was the entire process of physiotherapy assessment. Your health issues may take time to heal, but physiotherapists do it thoroughly and take things low according to bodily strength and requirements. There is no set time for healing as each body responds differently. So when someone asks you what the physiotherapy process is, bombard them with this information!

What Techniques Are Employed in Physiotherapy?

There are several kinds of physiotherapy techniques, and not all suit everyone. Physiotherapists may use one or more methods for a particular issue.

Here are a few methods you may want to know. These are the few ways physiotherapy works-

  • Manual Therapy

Through muscle manipulation and kneading, physiotherapists remove the pain and correct the movement issues via manual therapy. This technique flushes away the scar tissue from its source. Doing so stimulates the curing process.

Adequate and proper treatment needs daily or routine exercise with the physiotherapist beside you. There is also a good chance they will prescribe strength exercises with the ongoing treatment.

When they use it in conjunction with others, it may prevent or delay the need for surgeries. It may also help decrease the rehabilitation process. They use manual therapy to address spine, shoulders, knees, legs and arms.

  • Movement and Exercises

Physiotherapists often suggest exercising and moving to help you move better and feel stronger. Here are a few ways they may include to enhance your function and mobility-

  • They might give you exercises to do that target specific parts of your body. You will need to do these exercises repeatedly and regularly for a long or short period, as suggested by the doctor.
  • Activities that make your whole body move, like walking or swimming, can also be helpful if you have had surgery or an injury that makes it hard to move around.
  • Sometimes, they might recommend exercising in warm, shallow water, which can help relax your muscles and joints while making them stronger.
  • Your physiotherapist might also give you tips on staying active and safe, and they may suggest using things like crutches or a walking stick to help you move better.

They could give you exercises to do in the long run to help manage any pain you have or to lower your chances of getting hurt again.

  • Electrotherapy

While one may find it frightening when told about “electrotherapy”, it is not what you think. This technique takes place using gentle and mild electrical pulses.

It is a proven method that stimulates the body’s natural naturopaths, killing the pain. Physiotherapists use this method to decrease inflammation levels and better the muscle’s range of motion.

It has been effective at decreasing pain. Research showed that when treatment had a combination of manual and exercise therapy ways, electrotherapy was a massive benefit for many. It has been one of the best physiotherapy equipment.

  • Ultrasound Therapy

Ultrasound therapy is not just for imaging; it is also used in physiotherapy to treat injured muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This therapy involves using sound waves to generate heat deep within the body. This heat helps loosen up tissues, which prevent injuries and ease pain.

The sound waves go through the skin without surgery and boost blood flow to the injured area. This extra blood flow supports healing and reduces pain. Additionally, ultrasound therapy reduces swelling and long-term inflammation, hindering the body’s healing ability.

People find ultrasound very soothing and help them recover from pain faster than usual.

  • Acupuncture or Dry Needling

Acupuncture is a technique used in physiotherapy where fine needles are carefully inserted into specific points of the body. These points connect to pathways called meridians, which carry energy throughout the body.

It aims to help reduce pain and promote the body’s natural healing processes. Physiotherapists use it often in conjunction with other physiotherapy treatments like musculoskeletal pain, headaches, and neurological disorders.

During an acupuncture session, physiotherapists will assess again for target points. The needles are thin, so most people experience minimal discomfort during insertion. Once the needles are in place, the physiotherapist gently manipulates them to enhance the treatment effects.

Experts believe that acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins. It improves blood circulation and cuts inflammation in the targeted areas.

  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

Physiotherapy uses different techniques to help people with pain and movement problems. Another technique under physiotherapy is Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). It involves using a small, battery-operated device that sends a gentle electric current to the area that hurts.

When they turn on the machine, it sends tiny electrical signals through these pads to the nerves. These signals can help block pain messages going to your brain. The gentle electrical pulses produce endorphins.

The best thing about TENS is that it is usually painless and easy to use. You might feel slightly tingling or buzzing, but it shouldn’t be uncomfortable. Physiotherapists help manage your pain seamlessly through this method.

  • Electric Therapeutic Tape

Another technique under physiotherapy is the Electric Therapeutic Tape. It is a method used in physiotherapy for rehabilitation and the healing process of injured joints and muscles. It is unlike traditional athletic tape. ETT provides support by restricting movement, and electric therapeutic tape works by gently lifting the skin.

The tape is of a thin, elastic material designed to mimic the flexibility of human skin. It is applied directly to the skin over the affected area. Once applied, the tape gently pulls on the skin, creating a space between the skin and the underlying tissue.

Electric therapeutic tape may improve proprioception (the body’s sense of position and movement) and reduce pain perception. Additionally, it provides support to weakened or injured muscles and joints.

  • Soft Tissue Mobilisation

Soft tissue mobilisation is a technique used in physiotherapy to help with pain relief. It improves the movement of tendons, muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissues.

It involves the therapist using their hands or special tools to apply gentle pressure and massage to the affected area. The therapist uses stroking, kneading, or stretching techniques to break up scar tissue and reduce muscle tension. It helps decrease pain, increase flexibility, and promote healing.

Therapists often use it with other treatment modalities, such as exercise therapy and stretches, to achieve the best results.

  • Hydrotherapy

Most of you may have understood this concept by its name. Hydrotherapy is a kind of “water cure” for those who haven’t. It is a separate branch of healthcare, but physiotherapists have used it to treat people with pain.

Patients do exercises in a pool with a therapist watching. Water helps by making exercises easier on joints and muscles. It reduces swelling, improves blood flow, and eases pain. Warm water relaxes muscles, while cold water reduces inflammation.

Exercises can include stretching, swimming, and using special equipment. Hydrotherapy suits people with injuries, surgeries, arthritis, or chronic pain. It helps them heal and strengthen by providing a safe and fun way to exercise in water.

  • Cryotherapy

While people may have guessed the concept of Hydrotherapy by its name, don’t let “Cryotherapy” mislead you. No, it is not remotely close to the idea of crying. This one is more about freezing you up. It is a technique in physiotherapy that uses cold to help people heal.

It is like putting ice packs on injuries. Cold helps to reduce pain and swelling by numbing the area and constricting blood vessels. It limits inflammation and promotes healing.

Cryotherapy can involve ice packs, ice baths, or special machines that blow cold air. Doctors commonly use it for acute injuries like sprains, strains, or bruises. At first, the cold sensation might feel uncomfortable, but it is worth the try.

Cryotherapy is a simple and effective way to treat injuries and promote healing in physiotherapy.

  • Resistance training

Resistance training is another technique to treat people if they go to a physiotherapist. It is strength training by working against resistance. It can involve using weights, resistance bands, or even the body’s weight. The goal is to gradually increase the resistance to challenge the muscles to strengthen them.

You gain overall fitness, muscle strength, and endurance. One could use it to rehabilitate injuries, improve balance and coordination, and prevent future injuries. Physiotherapists design personalised resistance training programs tailored to each individual’s needs and goals.

Resistance training improves physical function and quality of life with regular practice.

  • Laser Therapy For Pain Management

Pain management is essential when you grow old. Although pain can also occur because of minor accidents, Laser therapy is an alternative to physiotherapy.

It involves using a special light, called a laser, to target areas of pain or injury. The laser emits focused beams of light that penetrate the skin and stimulate cellular activity in the affected area. It can help reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and speed up healing.

Laser therapy is non-invasive and painless, and sessions are usually short. It treats conditions like back pain, arthritis, and sports injuries. Physiotherapists may include laser therapy in an inclusive treatment plan to help their patients manage pain and improve their quality of life.

  • Cardiopulmonary Physiotherapy

This one is relatively less used but is an excellent form of physiotherapy. Cardiopulmonary physiotherapy is a technique used to help people with heart and lung problems. It involves exercises and therapies to improve breathing and heart function.

Physiotherapists work with patients to strengthen their lungs and heart muscles, increase endurance, and improve overall fitness. Therapists often use breathing exercises, chest physiotherapy, and aerobic exercises.

It can benefit people with conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and heart failure. The goal is to improve lung capacity, reduce symptoms, and improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities.

Physiotherapists tailor treatment plans to meet each patient’s specific needs and goals.

  • Craniosacral Therapy

Often, people need clarification about this therapy. Patients often ask others, “In what manner does physiotherapy operate for craniosacral therapy?”. Well, it is a gentle, hands-on technique used in physiotherapy to lessen tension and gain relaxation in the body. It focuses on the craniosacral system, which includes the spinal cord, brain, and cerebrospinal fluid.

During a session, the therapist assesses and manipulates the bones of the skull, spine, and pelvis. They aim to improve the flow of cerebrospinal fluid and release any restrictions or blockages in the system.

The therapy is on the idea that the craniosacral system has its rhythm and can affect the body’s health differently. By gently encouraging the body’s natural healing mechanisms, craniosacral therapy can help improve numerous conditions. It includes neck, headaches, and back pain, stress, and anxiety.

It is fitting for all ages, from newborns to older people. This method is often integrated into comprehensive physiotherapy treatment plans to enhance overall welfare and vigour.

  • Joint Manipulation

Manipulation of the joints? It might sound scary, but it is the one in physiotherapy that is astonishingly effective. Joint manipulation is used in physiotherapy to treat stiffness and joint pains.

It involves the therapist applying a controlled force to the joint to move it beyond its usual range of motion. This movement can help loosen tight muscles and ligaments, improve flexibility, and reduce pain. It is commonly used for back pain, arthritis, and sports injuries.

During a joint manipulation session, the therapist will carefully assess the joint’s condition and determine the appropriate technique. They may use their hands or special tools to manipulate, applying precise pressure to the affected area.

Only an experienced and qualified physiotherapist should do it.

  • Stretching

Remember doing the morning stretch while still drowsy? Doctors say it is healthy to do it as the body is in a specific position for a long time and needs to open up. Similarly, when there are issues in the body, mild stretching may help. It improves flexibility and range of motion in muscles and joints.

A physiotherapist gently pulls or elongates muscles and tendons during stretching to reduce tightness and stiffness. It helps to increase the length of muscles, making movements more accessible and more comfortable for the patient.

Manually stretching by the physiotherapist is beneficial for relieving muscle tension, preventing injuries, and improving overall physical performance.

Stretching exercises are often in the comprehensive treatment plan for various conditions such as muscle strains, joint stiffness, and rehabilitation after injuries.

  • Education and Advice

Awareness and education is the best way to heal a person from aches and pains. Physiotherapy is not just about fixing one problem. It is about understanding how your whole body works together. So, part of it is about learning how to care for yourself better.

Your physiotherapist might teach you some general tips for staying healthy, like exercising regularly and keeping a good weight for your body. They might also give you specific advice for your daily activities. For example, if your back hurts, they might show you how to sit or stand properly, how to lift things without hurting and avoid twisting too much.

These tips can help you feel better and reduce the chances of getting hurt again. It is all about taking care of your body in everyday life!

So, by what means does physiotherapy achieve its goals? The answer is all the techniques mentioned above. These are a few ways physiotherapy has gained successful stories- treating the ones in need through innovative practices. These are how you gain a great life and do healthy lifestyle activities.

Physiotherapy Specialties

By now, you know a lot about physiotherapy, but you are vaguely aware that there are several branches of physiotherapy. Physical therapists dig more deeply than basic skills and focus on a definite type of practice.

Here are some of the specialities under physiotherapy-

  • Paediatrics-

This speciality focuses on helping children with movement and developmental issues. The branch is specific to child care relating to functional impairment and bodily disruptions. For example, a pediatric physiotherapist might work with a child who has trouble walking due to cerebral palsy. Physiotherapists use exercises and activities to improve their mobility and coordination.

  • Sports-

Sports physiotherapists help athletes recover from injuries and improve their performance. For instance, a sports physiotherapist may work with a soccer player who has sprained their ankle, providing treatments like massage and rehabilitation exercises to help them get back on the field.

  • Geriatrics-

The elderly or old adults often need more help than younger ones- unless they have a significant injury or health issue. Geriatric physiotherapists specialise in helping elderly individuals maintain mobility and independence as they age. For example, a physiotherapist might work with an older adult recovering from a hip fracture, focusing on exercises to improve strength and balance to prevent falls.

  • Vestibular-

Are you feeling dizziness or problems with balancing yourself? You may have to show a physiotherapist who is an expert in the vestibular branch. This speciality deals with balance and dizziness disorders caused by issues with the inner ear. An example could be a patient with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) receiving vestibular therapy exercises. It helps reposition displaced inner ear crystals and lessen symptoms.

  • Clinical Electrophysiology-

Trained physiotherapists use electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies to analyze neuromuscular conditions. For instance, a patient with carpal tunnel syndrome might undergo nerve conduction studies to diagnose the condition and receive appropriate treatment.

  • Neurology-

Neurological physiotherapists work with individuals who have neurological conditions like stroke, multiple sclerosis, or spinal cord injuries. For example, a neurophysiotherapist may help a stroke survivor regain movement and function in their affected limbs.

  • Cardiovascular and Pulmonary-

This speciality focuses on rehabilitating patients with heart and lung conditions, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or after cardiac surgery. For example, a patient recovering from a heart attack might undergo pulmonary rehabilitation exercises to improve breathing and endurance.

  • Orthopedic-

Orthopedic physiotherapists specialise in treating musculoskeletal injuries and conditions. The conditions can be arthritis, tendonitis, or fractures. For example, a person recovering from knee replacement surgery may work with an orthopaedic physiotherapist to regain strength and mobility in their knee joint.

  • Oncology-

Cancer is a phenomenon quite common these days. Those having surgeries and therapies for cancer also need physiotherapy at some point. Hence, physiotherapists in this speciality help cancer patients manage physical symptoms and side effects of cancer treatments. For instance, a patient who undergoes chemotherapy may receive oncology physiotherapy to decrease fatigue. They aim to improve general function and quality of life.

Anyone asking what physiotherapy is suitable for may want to read this blog. It would clear all the queries. If you wish to pursue a career as a physiotherapist, you can choose among the many branches available.

Future Trends and Innovations in Physiotherapy

Looking forward to the future of physiotherapy, we see exciting changes coming with new technology. Physical therapy and pain management will have both new challenges and opportunities.

The great news is that physiotherapists and their organisations are making significant differences in shaping the future of this field. It means there are new ways to make people healthier.

Here are the things to watch out for in 2024-

Physical Therapy and Depression Care

Physical therapists are becoming more critical in helping people with mental health issues like depression. They focus on how the body and mind are connected. When they use exercise therapy, it makes them feel better because it releases chemicals in the brain that improve mood.

They are now starting to offer simple therapy for mental health problems like depression, which is recommended by the World Health Organization because there are not enough mental health professionals available. Physical therapists can help with anxiety, depression, and stress.

Even though some people get treatment with medicine or therapy, only 30% of them recover. The remaining 70% respond little or at all. Physical therapy can help fill that gap.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, has revolutionised how things work. It has also entered the world of physiotherapy, where therapists can take vast amounts of data and make customised rehabilitative plans according to individual needs.

AI provides data-driven and personalised solutions. AI is driven by the VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) applications. It can improve therapeutic interventions by delivering engaging and immersive exercises. AI algorithms predict the responses and pain patterns and optimise the strategies for pain management.

Some wearable devices have AI facilities monitoring exercise regimens and patient movements. It can also show pain levels, letting real-time modification take place.

All in all, AI holds a great place in the physiotherapy domain. It improves outcomes, personalisation, and efficiency with advanced technology in analytics.

Primary Care and Physiotherapy Practice

Primary care physical therapy is growing because healthcare is changing. It is a development to look out for. Now, more focus is on preventing problems and treating the whole person. Physical therapists are part of this shift. They offer treatments that do not involve medication, which can save money and help with long-term conditions like pain.

Physiotherapists can see patients directly now, which means faster and better care. They also work with other healthcare professionals to ensure patients get the best help. Since many people have muscle and bone issues, physical therapy fits well into primary care.

It shows how healthcare is changing to focus on the whole person in cost-effective ways.

Let The Healing Journey Begin with Nexx!

Physiotherapy is a treatment that is increasing in demand day by day. In 2023, the global market size of physiotherapy was 17.35 billion dollars! It has a bright future and will emphasise exceedingly on preventative care and lifestyle interventions.

We have given you all the physiotherapy-related information. You now know what are the workings of physiotherapy. We hope you found it helpful! Taking care of your body is now in your hands.

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