How it works
Physiotherapists often work in hospitals as they function in almost every department, from outpatients to intensive care where round-the-clock chest care can be vital to keep someone breathing. Because hospitals often have physiotherapy gyms, hydrotherapy facilities and high tech equipment, it also makes it easier for various treatment methods to be tried out.
Normally, you will be referred to a physiotherapist by your GP but there are plenty of physiotherapists who work in the private sector, although that will mean forking out for the treatment yourself. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you might even be able to receive physio through your workplace if they run occupational health schemes, but you’d have to check to make sure you’re eligible first.
After an initial consultation, your physiotherapist will decide which method of treatment will work best for your condition but the most commonly used are...
- '''Massage and Manipulation:''' a combination of movement and manual pressure, this type of physio can improve circulation, help drain fluid and give pain relief. This technique is often used to treat neck injuries and RSI.
- '''Exercise and Movement:''' drawing on gentle exercises such as swimming, walking or specific motions to target certain areas, these are all designed to strengthen the body. The prescribed exercise will usually need to be repeated daily for a number of weeks.
- '''Electrotherapy:''' using small electrical impulses to stimulate the nervous system, these pulses can override pain messages and help assist the healing process. Depending on your condition, you will be recommended for either TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) where small sticky electrodes are placed onto your skin, Ultrasound which uses high frequency sound waves to provide pain relief, shortwave diathermy which produces an electromagnetic field that generates heat and reduces swelling, or laser therapy that stimulates cell function and speeds up the healing process.
- '''Hydrotherapy:''' carried out in a warm, shallow swimming pool or special hydrotherapy bath, the resistance of water pushes against your body whilst you do special exercises. Not quite as vigorous as synchronised swimming, it relieves tension, strengthens muscles and eases pain. Alternating hot and cold showers, jet sprays and whirlpool baths are also considered strands of hydrotherapy.
Is it for me?
Everyone can benefit from physiotherapy because it’s a non invasive treatment that doesn’t involve the use of drugs, so it doesn’t matter if you’re 0 or 90. As well as helping to treat physical illness and sports injuries, physiotherapists also work with people who have mental health problems or learning difficulties. It can also be used to slow the progression of long term conditions and help restore normal movement in people that have had neurology problems or suffered a stroke. The benefits can even be felt by mums-to-be, as physio can help prepare you for giving birth.