What do physios do?

You have probably heard of the profession of physiotherapy.  Maybe you have had a conversation with a friend about how physiotherapy helped get rid of his or her back pain, or you might know someone who needed physiotherapy after an injury.  You might even have been treated by a physiotherapist yourself.  But have you ever wondered about physiotherapists – who they are and what they do?  Many people are familiar with physiotherapists’ work helping patients with orthopedic problems, such as low back pain or knee surgeries, to reduce pain and regain function.

Others may be aware of the treatment that physiotherapists provide to assist patients recovering from a stroke (e.g., assisting them with recovering use of their limbs and walking again).  This is probably the most common stereotype of physiotherapy and certainly the way Hollywood portrays the profession (for reference see Regarding Henry, starring Harrison Ford).  The ability to maintain an upright posture and to move your arms and legs to perform all sorts of tasks and activities is an important component of your health.  Yet this fundamental component of life and health is often taken for granted, especially when we can no longer perform some of these daily movements without pain.  Most of us can learn to live with the various medical conditions that we may develop, but only if we are able to continue at our jobs, take care of our families, and enjoy important occasions with family and friends.

All of these activities require the ability to move without difficulty or pain.  Because physiotherapists are experts in movement and function, they do not confine their talents to treating people who are ill.  A large part of a physiotherapist’s program is directed at preventing injury, loss of movement, and even surgery. Physiotherapists work as consultants in industrial settings to improve the design of the workplace and reduce the risk of workers overusing certain muscles or developing low back pain. They also provide services to athletes at all levels to screen for potential problems and institute preventive exercise programs.  With the boom in the golf and fitness industries, a number of physiotherapists are engaged in consulting with recreational golfers and fitness clubs to develop workouts that are safe and effective, especially for people who already know that they have a problem with their joints or their backs.

The cornerstones of physiotherapy treatment are therapeutic exercise and functional training.  In addition to “hands-on” care, physiotherapists also educate patients to take care of themselves and to perform certain exercises on their own. Depending on the particular needs of a patient, physiotherapists may also “mobilize” a joint (that is, perform certain types of movements at the end of your range of motion), manipulate a joint(a high velocity, low amplitude technique) with the goal to promote normal movement.

Physiotherapists also use methods such as ultrasound (which uses high frequency waves to target tissue), hot packs, and ice.  Although other kinds of practitioners will offer some of these treatments as “physiotherapy,” it is important for you to know that physiotherapy can only be provided by qualified physiotherapists or by physiotherapy assistants who work only under the direction and supervision of physical therapists.  Most extended health benefits packages include coverage for physiotherapy treatment.  The extent of coverage varies from one plan to the next.  Call your insurance company or our front office for details regarding your specific coverage.  You do not require a referral from your doctor to receive physiotherapy treatment, however some insurance companies require a referral before they will reimburse your claim.
Ask your doctor if physiotherapy is right for you or call our Physiotherapy – Pain Solution Hotline at p: 613.392.7823.

To return to FAQs simply click here.