The Role of Physiotherapy in Managing Common Health Conditions

Physiotherapy is a rehabilitation speciality involved in the restoration of mobility, function and quality of life in persons affected by injury, illness or disability. Practitioners in this field are referred to as physiotherapists. They are specially trained and regulated to help people of all ages in managing a wide range of health conditions.

In Australia, they must be registered with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia. They often work as part of multi-disciplinary teams in hospitals, health centres, GP surgeries and other health settings.

Physiotherapists attend to health conditions such as pain and stiffness of muscles and joints in the back, neck and shoulders. They recommend suitable exercises to strengthen the muscles in those areas and improve posture. For example, they can use hydrotherapy, a series of exercises carried out in warm, shallow water, to relax and support muscles and joints. They may also carry out manual therapy involving massage and manipulation of specific areas of the body, especially following sports injuries.

Physiotherapists might recommend relaxation techniques to help ease the pain and tension arising from torticollis, a health condition resulting from sleeping without adequate neck support or from bad posture. They can also provide specific advice on maintenance of ergonomic postures, correct lifting or carrying techniques and methods for avoiding awkward twisting and overstretching which can hurt the back.

Some people take several months to recover from the debilitating effects of a heart attack. Through a combination of rehabilitation exercises, the physiotherapist works with other members in a multi-disciplinary team called the cardiac rehabilitation team to gradually restore the affected person's fitness so they can resume normal activities.

Physiotherapists are involved in managing movement problems associated with medical conditions of the brain and nervous system. People who survive a stroke usually require a long period of rehabilitation before they recover. Some may even need to adjust to living with the effects of the stroke. Physiotherapists assist affected persons in learning or relearning the skills necessary for independent daily living at home.

Persons suffering from multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease may have stiff or inflexible muscles, spasms or difficulty walking. Physiotherapists play an important role in providing support, especially with movement problems.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis may cause considerable breathing difficulties. These problems tend to get gradually worse with time, preventing the person from carrying out normal activities. Physiotherapists can institute a specialised programme of exercises and education to make breathing easier and improve quality of life. They can also recommend specific techniques and devices to help clear mucus from the lungs of persons suffering from cystic fibrosis.