About Physical Therapy

What is Physical Therapy?

Physical Therapy is a healthcare profession concerned with the assessment, maintenance, and restoration of the physical function and performance of the body.  It is a distinct form of care that can be performed in isolation or in conjunction with other types of medical management.  Used in conjunction with certain medical or surgical techniques, physical therapy can complement these techniques to help provide a speedy and complication-free return to normal activity.

Physical Therapy can be useful in the diagnosis and management of a wide range of injuries, disease processes, and other conditions, including:

  • Sports injuries
  • Back and neck pain
  • Postural problems
  • Occupational injuries
  • Arthritis
  • Amputee rehabilitation
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Chronic airway disease
  • Cardiac rehabilitation
  • Stroke rehabilitation
  • Asthma management
  • Development and pediatric problems
  • Neurological conditions
  • Impaired mobility
  • Women’s health
  • Incontinence
  • Geriatric problems
  • Specific children’s conditions

How can physical Therapy help?

  • Identify the problem area and treat this directly.

We treat a wide variety of injuries and problems using many different techniques.  In many cases, the causes of pain and dysfunction are obvious, but sometimes things are not so black and white, especially when symptoms are inconsistent or difficult to describe.  We can perform a wide range of tests to help locate the source of the problem and implement the appropriate treatment strategy.

  •  Identify the causes and predisposing factors.

Physical Therapists are not only interested in the problem, but factors that contribute to the problem.  Identifying factors such as poor posture, improper techniques, muscle imbalances, poor work practices, or other bad habits allow interventions to be made to correct these factors.  This will reduce the risk of the same thing happening again in the future.

  •  Provide rehabilitation following occupational or sporting injuries.

Physical Therapists can help you get back to work or sport more quickly by providing rehabilitation programs and advice on how to prevent a recurrence of the injury.

Providing rehabilitation and exercise before and after surgery.

If you are having or have had major surgery, physical Therapists are often involved in pre-operative and/or post operative programs to help get you moving again, making sure your length of stay in hospital is not unexpectedly extended.

  •  Provide advice on exercise programs.

If you have the urge to get fit and stay healthy, one of the best ways to do this is though regular exercise.  However if you have not done any serious exercise for a while, it may be advisable to seek assistance to devise an appropriate program for your needs, and ensure you are not at risk of injury.

  •  Provide or advising on special equipment.

With different conditions or disease processes, special equipment may be required.  Physical Therapists can advise on many different types of equipment, including splints, walking aids, wheelchairs, occupational equipment etc.

What do Physical Therapists do?

A common misconception is that physical Therapists only deal with injuries to backs, necks, joints, muscles and other ‘sports’ type injuries.  While many physios certainly do treat these types of conditions, there are other areas in which physiotherapists are trained to help you.

For simple explanation, physical therapy can be divided into three broad areas.

  1. Musculo-skeletal
  2. Cardiothoracic
  3. Neurological

Musculo-skeletal Physical Therapy (orthopedics).As the name suggests, this area deals with muscles, bones and joints, and is perhaps the most widely known.  Musculo-skeletal physical therapists can deal with many acute or chronic conditions such as:

  1. Back and neck pain or stiffness
  2. Muscle strains/contusions
  3. Joint sprains/stiffness/instability
  4. Arthritis
  5. Muscle imbalances/weakness
  6. Muscle spasm
  7. Tendonitis/bursitis
  8. Rehabilitation following occupational injury, surgery, sporting injuries.

The musculo-skeletal physical therapists uses a variety of different treatment methods to help speed up the healing process and reduce the likelihood of the same thing happening again.  Some of the techniques include:

  1. Manual techniques (massage, joint mobilization, manipulation, stretches)
  2. Electrotherapy (ultrasound, interferential, TENS, laser)
  3. Heat and cold (diatheramy)
  4. Therapeutic exercise
  5. Correction of posture, lifting techniques, sporting techniques which contribute to the problem
  6. Taping, bandaging, splinting
  7. Hydrotherapy

The musculo-skeletal physical therapists is not only concerned with treating the injury, but with finding the cause and correcting any bio-mechanical factors which may contribute to the injury.

Cardiac Physical Therapy.

Cardiac physical therapists deal primarily with the function of the cardiorespiratory system (heart and lungs).  The cardiothoracic physical therapists, often working in the acute hospital, deals with a variety of situations, some of them being:

  1. Chronic airway obstructive disease (emphysema, asthma, chronic bronchitis)
  2. Following general surgery
  3. General medical conditions
  4. Following cardiac surgery
  5. Following thoracic surgery
  6. Intensive care unit patients

The cardiothoracic physical therapists aims to optimize the function of the cardiothoracic system and patient comfort, resulting in increased exercise tolerance, a reduced chance of developing complications such as chest infections, reduced shortness of breath, and a reduced length of stay in the hospital.

Neurological physical therapy.

Neurological physical therapy, as the name suggests, is concerned with disorders of the nervous system.  The neurological physical therapy is involved in the assessment and treatment of patients suffering conditions such as:

  1. Acquired brain injuries/head injuries
  2. Strokes
  3. Brain surgery
  4. Parkinson disease
  5. Multiple sclerosis
  6. Guilianne-Barre syndrome
  7. Balance disorders
  8. Spinal cord injuries
  9. Other neurological conditions

The neurological physical therapy is involved in determining how these conditions affect the patient’s movement and function, and implementing strategies to regain maximal function.

For more information go to the American Physical Therapy Association website.

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