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What is Physiotherapy?
If you're reading this article, you're probably contemplating physiotherapy. Maybe you've been referred to a physiotherapist by your GP, family, friends or even by Googling 'physio near me'. Over the last 100 years, physiotherapists have helped Australians all over the country achieve goals and experience fulfilling lives.
Reducing pain. Moving better. Recovering from surgery. These are the types of problems that physiotherapists are trained to assist you with. So, if you need help but are unsure how physiotherapy works, we have written a detailed article just for you. We'll be going over numerous topics, including what you can expect, the treatments being delivered and what to look out for when finding the right physio.
Please note: The term 'physiotherapist' and 'physio' are the same and will be used interchangeably.
Physiotherapy or physical therapy is a field of medicine dedicated to helping patients recover or manage their conditions, disabilities and injuries. Physiotherapists use various treatments, including exercise, hands-on therapy, electrotherapy, providing day-to-day strategies, and others.
Alongside doctors and other allied health professionals (e.g. occupational therapists, exercise physiologists, podiatrists, etc.) physiotherapists play a crucial part in the healthcare system by working in various settings. Places where you may see a physio work include; private clinics, medical centres, hospitals, sports environments and rehabilitation gyms.
Physiotherapists work within a range of specialities and workplaces. Depending on your physio's qualifications and expertise, they will be able to help you with your specific problem. By using localphysio.net.au you will be able to find a physio depending on your needs. Most physiotherapists are generalists and can effectively treat most common physical conditions.
However, more specific conditions may require seeing a specialist physiotherapist. Examples of these specialities will be detailed below.
As implied by the name, musculoskeletal physiotherapists are the most common in dealing with common physical conditions. These include lower back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis, tendinitis, sprains, strains, etc. Titled musculoskeletal physiotherapists have undergone additional training through postgraduate physiotherapy courses. They have a broad range of treatments to cater for dealing with these types of health problems, including
Advanced exercise prescription and rehabilitation
Manual therapy (e.g. joint mobilisations, massage, trigger point therapy, etc.)
Electrotherapy (e.g. ultrasound, TENS and interferential)
Providing tailored strategies and education for pain and injury management
Most general physiotherapists are highly educated and experienced in managing sports injuries. Similar to musculoskeletal physios, they deal with similar types of injuries. However, elite athletes with an urgent timeline or complex injuries may opt for a more specialised opinion. Although many sports physios still offer similar treatments as musculoskeletal physiotherapists, they may have a more active-based approach considering their primary patient demographic, including
Strength and conditioning
These types of treatments are particularly more tailored for those with ambitions for returning to highly physical sports or activities)
Neurological physiotherapists tend to deal with nerve-related conditions and injuries. Suppose you have a long-term neurological condition or have recently developed one. In that case, there is a high probability that physiotherapy treatment will be incredibly beneficial. Examples of conditions that may consider this specialised form of therapy include:
Traumatic brain injury and concussion
Spinal cord injuries
Neurological physiotherapists have undergone additional training and primarily only work with these types of demographics. Many people with neurological conditions can face declining abilities to perform basic functions and movements. As a result, these physios have developed specific and advanced rehabilitation techniques to help their patients with their goals (e.g. improve mobility, regaining independence, being able to go out, being in less pain, etc.).
Less common conditions often require even more specialised physiotherapy services. If you're unsure about who you need to see, please refer to the table below.
|Physiotherapy Services||Role||Conditions Seen|
|Women’s Health Physiotherapy||Therapists work with women who may benefit from targeting the pelvic floor muscles. This is primarily post pregnancy.||Pre-natal and post-partum women, pregnancy-related issues, post-hysterectomy, incontinence, pelvic pain, pelvic organ prolapse, sexual pain|
|Cardiorespiratory physiotherapy||Although these physiotherapists work in predominantly hospital-based roles, there is growing demand and supply of outpatient services. These therapists are specially trained to work with those suffering from heart and lung conditions. Chest physiotherapy techniques, such as breathing exercises, rehabilitation and manual therapy, are used.||COPD, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation.|
|Vestibular physiotherapy||People suffering from vestibular problems, which can cause issues with dizziness and the ability to balance||Vertigo, Benign paroxysmal positional Vertigo (BPPV), Ménière's disease, vestibular migraines, unsteadiness, vestibular neuronitis, labyrinthitis|
|Paediatric physiotherapy||The way children move, function and develop are unique compared to adults. As a result, children can also face different types of physical challenges and conditions. Paediatric physiotherapists required further training and experience with analysing, diagnosing and treating the specific impairments seen in the younger population (0-18 years of age).||Child-specific sports injuries (e.g. Sever's disease, Osgood-Schlatter's disease, etc.), juvenile arthritis, torticollis, delayed development milestones, toe-walking, scoliosis|
|Physiotherapy at home||Those who are unable or find it challenging to attend medical appointments can opt for mobile physiotherapists to conduct sessions within the comfort of your own home.||General deconditioning, lower back pain, joint pain, post-operative rehabilitation, muscle pain, etc. Please contact the service provider to see whether their physiotherapists provide more specific conditions.|
|Online physiotherapy or telehealth||Primarily due to coronavirus lockdowns, telehealth or online consultations are available for many clinics. You can receive online assessments, diagnosis, exercise programs and strategies through video/phone sessions in the convenience of your own home.||General deconditioning, lower back pain, joint pain, post-operative rehabilitation, sports injuries, muscle pain etc. Please contact the service provider to see whether their physiotherapists provide more specific conditions.|
|NDIS Physiotherapy||Both general and specific physiotherapy service providers accept patients under the NDIS network. Contact your case manager or your preferred physiotherapist to inquire further.||Please contact the service provider to see whether their physiotherapists provide more specific conditions.|
|TMJ Physiotherapy||Not many people know that there are specialist physiotherapists who can help with TMJ and jaw issues. However, there are service providers who have undergone additional study to perform advanced assessments and treatment of the area.||Clenching, grinding, TMJ and jaw-related pain, jaw rehabilitation, neck-related jaw dysfunction.|
Every day we are asked questions about physiotherapy. Whilst we hope to get back to you as soon as possible, we thought it'd be more convenient if we answered it here for you.
To become a physiotherapist, you must first complete a registered tertiary course. You can achieve a Bachelor of Physiotherapy after meeting the prerequisites after your final year assessments for some universities. Some universities offer a Masters of Physiotherapy and Doctorate of Physiotherapy, which requires you to complete a Bachelor's degree and fulfil some prerequisites. Overall, it takes about 4-6 years to finalise studies.
To be able to practice in Australia, a physiotherapist must be registered with AHPRA. For more information, you can visit the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) website.
You may qualify for up to 5 yearly physiotherapy visits for clinics that accept it. However, you must have a referral if you are deemed eligible by your GP.
Outside of Medicare subsidies, no referrals are required to see a physiotherapist privately. Under certain circumstances, such as Workcover, TAC and NDIS, you need a referral from an authorised individual (e.g. GP, case manager, etc.).
If you'd like to kick-start your health, BookPhysio.com will help you instantly find a local physiotherapist who can help you right away.
I've hurt my shoulder at cricket, is there a physiothearpy clinic open on Saturday's?
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Sometime early last week, I hurt the inner part of my upper arm at Aussie rules - my injury is getting worse and I can't get to work.
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That sharp pain I get in my upper back is worse again, I moved to Melbourne, so I need a new physio.