What is Physiotherapy?

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  • Originally Written By: N. Madison
  • Revised By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 05 April 2019
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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.


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Post 30

My brother is suffering from severe neck pain and had pain and numbness in the left hand. Can anyone suggest better treatment for these complaints?

Post 29

In reply to many of the comments on here: A bachelor degree in Physiotherapy is a great place to start with your career in Physiotherapy. You would need 3 A-Levels in grade C or above to get onto a respected BSc Physiotherapy Degree course. This degree can then lead on to a Masters Degree in Physiotherapy (if you wish) which would generally last a year and many graduates find this is what pushes them closer to their dream of becoming a physiotherapist. However, a Masters degree is not essential, and some will graduate from their bachelor degrees and then head straight into employment.

Post 28

Physiotherapy is considered as an important course that is concerned primarily with the social well being of the individuals, mainly focusing on injuries, impairment, human movements and rehabilitating the patients with other related diseases or conditions.

Post 27

I have a diploma in physiotherapy and many years in ICU working. Which schools can you recommend to an undergraduate to get masters in cardiovascular and respiratory physiotherapy?

Post 26

After I complete my study in B.P.T, are government jobs in a hospital available?

Post 25

I am a physio and I treated a patient three days ago with severe pain in his lower back and his right leg. The patient could not walk at all.

My Rx was heat and electric and positioning for two days, but there has been no improvement at all. Help?

Post 23

Do we need a license to practice as a kinesthesiologist in the USA.

Post 22

I was attacked by a hard cold at my left shoulder and back which caused a severe pain in the nerves of all my left shoulder and neck.

I went to the doctor, who prescribed me antidolorants also for the pain of the nerves. This was a week ago, but I still feel the pain and sometimes I can't sleep well at night from the pain! What would you recommend I do in such a case? Thanks for any advice. --M.M

Post 21

i had a bayik accident one year ago and it caused a serious foot and ankle injury. now i have difficulty in moving my foot and i can't walk, run or place the foot smoothly.

Post 19

I have been suffering from neck and waist pain and it make me feel feverish. I consulted with my physician and have been prescribed therapy. Is there any future side affect if I undergo this treatment? Please let me know.

Post 17

i want to know how much i have to score in my 12th std to choose a physiotherapy course?

Post 13

i want to know the best physiotherapist institutes for learning and for practice in the whole world?

Post 12

where can i get an outstanding degree in physiotherapy in india?

Post 11

what is the procedure to get in and from which field we should be. And is this right option to opt for?

Post 10

i have been having a persisting and painful ache on my chest and my spinal cord. i want to know if i have to see a physiotherapist.

Post 9

me too. i would like to know which subjects must i do at high school level to gain entry to this field?

Post 8

what subjects will i need if i want to join physiotherapy?

Post 7

what schools can you recommend to an undergraduate to get a masters in physiotherapy?

Post 5

depends on what area you live in. subjects: cardiorespiratory, neuro, musculoskeletal, biomedical are the core subjects for about two years. plus about two more years of more focused subjects. not sure bout the last one but i don't think so. a physio doesn't just massage. they use a range of techniques to ultra sound, dry needling, etc., not just massage, so you need to have an understanding of those, and an assistant would need to know how to tape joints and understand exercise prescription and so on.

Post 4

What schools can you recommend to an undergraduate to get a masters in physiotherapy?

Post 3

what subject will i need to learn if i want to join physiotherapy?

Post 2

if you have a license in massage therapy could you be an assistant physical therapist?

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