Physiotherapy, also referred to as physical therapy, involves evaluating, diagnosing, and treating a range of diseases, disorders, and disabilities using physical means. Practiced by physiotherapists or physical therapists, it is considered within the realm of conventional medicine. Methods for diagnosis can vary, depending on the situation, though physical examinations and testing are often employed for evaluation. Treatments can include a wide range of practices, including massage, applications of heat or electricity, and assistance with using mobility devices such as walkers and crutches.
Many specialists begin physiotherapy with an assessment of the patient's condition. This typically includes a review of a patient's medical history and a physical examination. Physiotherapists often consider the medical history review a subjective examination, since the patient's opinions or past experiences may influence it. They consider the physical examination, however, to be more objective, as observable and verified symptoms are the primary concern. The assessment stage may, in some cases, involve diagnostic tests to better evaluate the patient's condition and develop an effective treatment plan.
Once testing is complete, then physiotherapists look at the results to determine the problems facing their patients. This can range from fairly minor issues, such as pulled or damaged muscles, to severe injuries or nerve damage that causes pain and lack of mobility. Other specialists may be consulted in physiotherapy to determine the best, comprehensive course of action for a patient, though this depends on the situation.
Treatment is guided by the findings of the assessment. Based on the unique needs of the patient, physical therapists may employ various physiotherapeutic treatment options. Such methods can include musculoskeletal, cardiopulmonary, and integumentary or "skin-based" physiotherapy techniques. Physiotherapeutic treatment methods are constantly evolving as the field grows.
Common forms of treatment can include massage and the use of heat or cold to relax and help heal muscles. Mild electric shocks can also be used to stimulate muscles, which can help in recovery for some individuals. Recovery from accidents or surgery can require very restrained forms of treatment, to ensure further damage is not caused; physiotherapy often relies on patience while waiting for muscles and bones to recover.
Additional Treatments and Methods
In addition to the physiotherapeutic methods used in treatment, physical therapists often provide patients with guidance for using things like walking devices and mobility aids. This can include helping someone learn to use a wheelchair or adapt to the loss of limbs or paralysis during recovery. Good physical therapists work hard to help patients stay informed about their particular conditions and required treatments. Patient education is often a element key in the success of physiotherapy.
Becoming a Physiotherapist
To become a physical therapist in the US and many other countries, an individual must first obtain a graduate degree from an accredited physiotherapy program. Many educational institutions offer programs leading to the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. There are also programs that students can utilize to pursue a particular specialization within the industry, such as sports therapy or geriatric care. Upon completing a degree, graduates typically take national licensure examinations.