What is physiotherapy?
“Physiotherapy is a health care profession concerned with human function and movement and maximising potential:
- it uses physical approaches to promote, maintain and restore physical, psychological and social well-being, taking account of variations in health status
- it is science-based, committed to extending, applying, evaluating and reviewing the evidence that underpins and informs its practice and delivery
- the exercise of clinical judgement and informed interpretation is at its core.”
The above definition is taken from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Curriculum Framework (January 2002). See the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy website for details
Physiotherapists work in a great variety of settings such as orthopaedics, intensive care, paediatrics, mental illness, stroke recovery, occupational health, ergonomics, musculoskeletal treatment in hospitals and private practice, and care of the elderly.
Physiotherapy science and skills
Physiotherapy is a science-based healthcare profession which views movement as central to health and well being. Physiotherapists aim to identify and make the most of movement ability by health promotion, preventive advice, treatment and rehabilitation.
Core skills used by chartered physiotherapists include manual therapy, therapeutic exercise and the application of electrophysical modalities.
Physiotherapists believe it is of vital importance to take note of psychological, cultural and social factors which influence their clients. They try and bring the patients into an active role to help make the best of independence and function.
Physiotherapy is an autonomous profession (practitioners make their own clinical judgements and treatment choices) and practice reflection (reviewing their own behaviour and success in their work and taking action as appropriate to solve problems they identify in themselves).
Systematic clinical reasoning is used in a problem-solving approach to patient-centred care.
What do physiotherapists do?
Chartered physiotherapists work with a broad variety of physical problems, especially those associated with the neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and respiratory systems. They may work alone, with physiotherapy colleagues or teams and with other healthcare professionals in multi-professional teams.
These are examples of the areas physiotherapists work in:
- Outpatients - treating spinal and joint problems, accidents and sports injuries.
- Intensive Care Units - keeping limbs mobile and chests clear.
- Women’s Health - ante- and post-natal care advice, exercise and posture, managing continence and post-gynaecological operations.
- Care of Elderly - maintaining mobility and independence, rehabilitation after falls, treatment of arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, chest conditions.
- Neurology - helping people restore normal movement and function in stroke, multiple sclerosis and other conditions.
- Orthopaedics and Trauma - restoring mobility after hip and knee replacements and spinal operations, treating patients after accidents.
- Mental Illness - taking classes in relaxation and body awareness, improving confidence and self-esteem through exercise.
- People with Learning Difficulties - using sport and recreation to develop people, assessing and providing specialist footwear, seating and equipment.
- Occupational Health - treating employees in small to large organisations and companies, looking at work habits to prevent physical problems such as repetitive strain injury.
- Terminally Ill (Palliative Care) - working in the community or in hospices, treating patients with cancer and AIDS.
- Paediatrics - treating sick and injured children, those with severe mental and physical handicaps, and conditions like cerebral palsy and spina bifida
- Community - treating a wide variety of patients at home and giving advice to carers.
- Private Sector - working independently in private practice, clinics, hospitals, and GP surgeries, treating a wide range of conditions.
- Education and Health Promotion - teaching people about many conditions and lifestyle choices. This may include back care, ergonomics, taking exercise classes and cardiac rehabilitation groups.
- Sports clinics - treating injuries in sportsmen and women, advising on recovering fitness and avoiding repeated injury.
- Voluntary Organisations - advising and consulting for organisations supporting and caring for people with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.