Hello dearest readers. Today is world physiotherapy day! As a physiotherapist that I am, I thought I should use this medium to talk about my profession to the world. I mean, it is only fair to do so, right? A lot of people don’t really know what physiotherapists do and it is one of my duties as a health care professional to educate. In Nigeria especially, the value of physiotherapists isn’t well appreciated. Most of what I hear when I tell people my profession is “massage” bones” “back pain”. I just laugh because, after all, it is our duty to define who we are to others. I’m here to tell everyone that we are more than that.
What is Physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy or physical therapy is a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialty that remediates impairments and promotes mobility, function and quality of life through Examination, diagnosis, prognosis and physical intervention using physical elements such as mechanical force, heat, cold, electricity and movement.
According to Chattered Society of Physiotherapy, “Physiotherapy is a science-based profession and takes a ‘whole person’ approach to health and wellbeing, which includes the patient’s general lifestyle”. At the core is the patient’s involvement in their own care, through education, awareness, empowerment and participation in their treatment.
Now, from the definition, there are key words we should all observe and I’m gonna run through them with you all to give a better understanding about what we do.
1. Examination: Anybody in the clinical setting knows this is the first step to any form of management. It simply involves asking the patient about what is wrong and taking tests, assessing and looking at the presentation of the patient’s condition. The findings from this would give a clinical impression which would then take us to the next thing,
2. Diagnosis: This simply means the findings of the examination. We call it Clinical Impression sometimes Analysis of Findings. Either way, it is what we determine as the pathology of the patient after we have examined him/her.
3. Prognosis: This is simply the short and long term prediction of the patient’s condition during and after treatment. Some diseases have processes and we should be able to tell how these process manifest in the patient. This helps us to know what to do.
4. Physical intervention: After all of the above, our plan of treatment is made and then the actual treatment. Now, notice it was said in the definition that we use only physical means. We are not the ones to give or prescribe drugs.
Our business is non-invasive management and by non-invasive, I mean we are working from the outside of the body and not making direct contact with internal organs. Regardless we end up taking care of the body system from the outside in. Some of the physiccal intervention we use include the following:
– Infrared radiation
– Microwave diathermy
– Shortwave diathermy
– Interferential current
– Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
– Exercise therapy using multigym equipments such as threadmill, bicycle ergometer,reciprocal pulley, etc
– Massage therapy
– Ultraviolet radiation
– Laser therapy
– Manipulative therapy
– Cryotherapy which is the use of ice and other cooling agents
– Parrafin wax
– Hydrotherapy which is use of water to assist movement
– Orthotic and assistive devices such as knee brace, lumbar corset, axillary crutches etc
– Contrast bath
– Ultrasound therapy
I could go on but I’m sure from the above listed you should know that there is more to physiotherapy than massage or setting bones.
Branches of physiotherapy :
Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy- Deals with ailments of the muscles, joints, bones.
Cardio-Thoracic Physiotherapy- Deals with ailments of the heart and lungs. Physical fitness and removal of secretions blocking the airways.
Neurological Physiotherapy – This deals with problems arising from the central nervous system, that is, brain and spinal cord and the peripheral nervous system that is nerves and their branches.
Physiotherapy in Rehabilitation – This involves bringing back a disabled individual to maxiimal normal condition. It involves retraining and training patients to perform life activities as normal as possible following disability.
Physiotherapy in Obstetrics and Gynecology – This involves postural care of women during pregnancy and after child birth and also several gynaecological conditions.
Sports Physiotherapy- Specializes in management of sports injuries.
Pediatric Physiotherapy- Involves managing conditions that mainly affect children and caring for children.
Physiotherapy in Physical Fitness and Postural Care- This is concerned with guidance and care for physical fitness, good postural care and muscle build.
Orthopedic Physiotherapy- It involves regaining appropriate health function in patients that have suffered musculoskeletal injuries such as fractures. It is the oldest branch of physiotherapy.
Who is a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapist is the American English equivalent of physiotherapists. So whenever you hear both they are on and the same.
According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), physical therapists are highly educated, licensed health care professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility – in many cases without expensive surgery and often reducing the need of long term use of prescription medication.
A physiotherapist is responsible for administering physical agents to improve patients quality of life. Our clinical judgements are trusted to offer the best possible care and we work with a patient-centered care meaning we work according to the specific needs of a particular patient because no two patients are ever exactly alike. A physiotherapist isn’t a massage therapist, a physiotherapist isn’t a bone setter, a physiotherapist isn’t a technician who takes orders from a doctor or anybody. A physiotherapist is a professional who makes clinical judgements. No one is superior to the other. There is something we refer to as Interdisciplinary Approach which means the coming together of different branches of health care. The Physiotherapists, Nurses, Doctors, Surgeons, Dietitians, Occupational Therapists, Orthopedic surgeons, Psychiatrist, Radiographers and others all come together for the well-being of the patient. No one can do the work of the other. A doctor cannot do what the physical therapist can do and the physical therapist cant do the work of a nurse effectively. That is why we are professionals. We are experts at what we do, skilled and specifically trained on conditions we would likely come across. I usually tell people jokingly when they try to talk down on my profession or speak ignorantly that “You can never know the value of a physiotherapist until you need one”. That’s the beauty of a professional. You don’t have to struggle with anyone. When you need our expertise, you look for us because no one else can help you except for us. It is that simple.
How do you become a physical therapist?
You would need a graduate degree from any accredited physiotherapy program then take a national licensure exam that allows you to practice. In Nigeria, it is a five year course which includes one year in science department before moving to a medical college or teaching hospital where you spend a year learning basic medical sciences such as Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry before moving into physiotherapy proper. So for those of you asking, a well trained physiotherapist knows all there is to know about the body and how it works, how disease processes start which we refer to as “pathophysiology” and we also dissected cadavers (dead bodies) for a whole year just like the “doctors”. Clearly it isn’t some “easy course” you just take to “escape” medicine and surgery. After the first degree program, you can also go ahead and further for a master’s degree or a clinical doctorate from an accredited education program. A growing number of programs today offer the Doctor of Physiotherapy (DPT) degree. This gives you the opportunity to add “Dr” to your name. A Physiotherapist is address as “MR” “MISS” or “PT” only the qualified are to be referred to as “Doctor” but then again, good luck with explaining that to Nigerians who believe that anyone in a clinical coat is a “doctor” and some misogynists just go ahead and call ladies like me “nurse” because how can a woman be a doctor right? Smh. That’s by the way.
Who needs physiotherapy?
Physical therapists manage a wide range of disease conditions. Rule out any school of thought that tells you all we deal with are broken legs or back pain and sports injuries.You can benefit from physiotherapy at any time in your life. Physiotherapy helps with back pain or sudden injury, managing long-term medical condition such as asthma, and in preparing for childbirth or a sporting event.
Some of the conditions we deal with include
-Degenerative diseases such as arthritis, spondylosis, disc prolapse
-Erbs palsy, Klumpke’s paralysis, Wrist drop
-Cerebral palsy, poliomyelitis, hydrocephalus, spinal bifida, meningitis which mostly affects children.
-Adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder)
-Rotator cuff syndrome
-Carpal tunnel syndrome
-Systemic Lupus Erythymatus
-Chest conditions such as ventricular collapse, tb, asthma, COPD.
-Stroke complication such as hemiplegia which is paralysis on one half of the body, paraplegia which is paralysis of both hands or both legs, quadriplegia, all fours.
-Tendon Ligament Sprain, Muscle Strain, Neck Strain, Wrist sprain.
-Breast Cancer, gynecological conditions and antenatal and postnatal care for pregnant women.
We handle a whole lot of conditions and we have the closest contact with patients among all healthcare professionals. We directly contact them using our hands, we train, talk, listen and sometimes even carry our patients.
I love my job and wouldnt ever trade it for being anything else in the medical world. I hope I have been able to shed some light on the things we do as “PTs”. God bless.
You know I’m awesome, xoxo.