What Is Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy?

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  • Written By: Mal Baxter
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2019
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Musculoskeletal physiotherapy is one of three branches of physiotherapy. This subfield concerns itself with the physical condition of the musculoskeletal system. Its area of practice comprises not only muscles and bones of the skeleton, but also the joints, connective tissues like cartilage and ligaments, and nerves and spinal discs. Treatment relies on techniques such as therapeutic exercise and mobilization, electrotherapy, and hydrotherapy. In addition to clinical assessment and diagnosis of physical conditions, musculoskeletal physiotherapy involves clinical research and development of preventative behaviors and programs.

Physiotherapy, or as it's commonly known, physical therapy, is a therapeutic treatment of physical dysfunctions and injuries through the use of manual therapy, exercise, resistance training, and other methods. It focuses on clinical assessment and diagnosis of injury, chronic pain, or problems with posture. Physiotherapy helps restore normal function and development. Another subfield of physiotherapy is cardiothoracic physiotherapy, which deals with disorders of the cardiorespiratory system. Neurological physiotherapy focuses on disorders of the nervous system, such as degenerative diseases, spinal cord or head injuries, and stroke.

Physical conditions that call for treatment by a musculoskeletal physiotherapist usually encompass sports-related injuries like sprains and strains, workplace injuries, and chronic conditions. Some of these might include bursitis, arthritis, and diminished mobility in general. These professionals are also employed for post-surgery recoveries.


The application of musculoskeletal physiotherapy requires several years of concentrated study of medical conditions and treatment techniques. Professionals who practice this branch of therapy are typically licensed or chartered through governing agencies. They occupy numerous health settings, including hospitals and medical office complexes, musculoskeletal outpatient clinics, and rehabilitation centers; they may also be found in occupational health settings and senior care.

Drawing from a long history of physical therapeutic techniques and scientific understanding, musculoskeletal physiotherapy dates back to ancient civilizations; as a modern discipline, it traces back to World War I, and developed until it became generalized in modern medical facilities. Practice in this field demands a wide familiarity with conditions and therapies. These are generally employed according to individual needs and preferences. Therapeutic programs are designed to restore optimal function in individuals and are usually applied with careful assessments. Musculoskeletal physiotherapy practitioners are often employed in additional fields, such as pediatrics and sports medicine.

In order to manipulate or stimulate target areas of the musculoskeletal system, therapists continue to develop and rely on new techniques. Some of these include yoga and Pilates, resistance training, and neuromuscular facilitation. They sometimes rely on the use of special analytical equipment to conduct physical performance evaluations.


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