What is Physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy today, both used by conventional and alternative practitioners recommend physical therapy to relieve pain, improve muscle strength and mobility, and restore basic body functions such as standing, walking, and grasping in those who are recovering from surgery or accidents, or who are suffering from debilitating ailments (such as arthritis or stroke. It is also used to treat those who are physically handicapped. Often physical therapy may be combined with occupational therapy.

Physiotherapy as its name might suggest guided exercise is a mainstay. When a limb has lost its full range of motion or muscles have grown weak during a long period of recuperation, a physical therapist will devise a program of carefully chosen movements to help restore function. If a person suffers from back problems, the therapist may suggest extension and flexion exercises to improve the strength and flexibility of the spine. Isometrics, resistance exercises, stretching, and stationary biking might also be recommended depending on the nature of the ailment.

Physiotherapy will also include soft tissue therapy. Used mainly to relax tense or tight muscles (which can inhibit healing), it can also increase circulation, reduce swelling, and stretch adhesions--the fibrous bands of scar tissue that may be limiting movements.In addition, physical therapy helps to relieve the underlying pain of stiffened joints through the use of heat treatments such as whirlpool baths, compresses, and heat lamps. And ultrasound waves- high-frequency sound waves that vibrate tissues and produce heat- can speed healing in deeper body tissues. Cold treatments or ice packs are typically employed to calm muscle spasms and to reduce swelling and inflammation. Patients may also be given what's known as contrast hydrotherapy, a water treatment that alternates heat with cold to dramatically stimulate circulation in a particular area of the body.

Physiotherapy aims to improve a patient’s ability to perform Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) is another important goal of physical therapy. For example, if after a stroke, a patient needs to relearn a basic function such as holding a spoon or turning a doorknob, a physical therapist can help. Patients may also be taught how to use crutches, prosthetic devices, or other mechanical aids when necessary. In addition, physical therapists can advise patients on proper posture and gait, so that they can move more efficiently and function more easily. They may also suggest better ways of positioning and using the body in the workplace if the problem is due to repetitive stress injury.