What is Physiotherapy?

What is physiotherapy? Physiotherapy is another name for physical therapy and includes the guidance of professional therapists who are trained to help patients recover from sports and musculoskeletal injuries, as well as neurological disorders. These professional therapists are trained to help patients heal their bodies from injuries, regenerate strength in muscles that have atrophied, and to re-activate the body following surgeries. The patients receiving treatments from a physical therapist may take an active or passive role in their treatments, depending on the types of injuries they are recovering from and what phase of recovery they are at in their program. Other health professionals who may be involved in physiotherapy programs include occupational therapists, physiatrists, and physical therapy assistants.

Treatments provided by physical therapists: PTs may provide both active and passive treatments to patients to help the patients to develop enough strength and flexibility that they will need to get back to a healthy level of functioning. Passive treatments involve the patients sitting or laying down while the therapist applies treatments to them. These types of passive treatments include Ultrasound, Iontophoresis (aka electromotive drug administration - EMDA), TENS Units, and Heat/ice backs. These treatments are designed to reduce inflammation around the injured tissues, increase blood circulation, and to reduce tension around the superficial and deep muscle groups. Other passive treatments that may be provided by the physical therapist include stretching. For these stretching exercises, the patient may lay passively, while the therapist manipulated the patient's body to stretch the muscles that are tight.

Passive physical therapy - The ultimate goal of the physiotherapy program is to get patients to a level where they are regularly exercising and maintaining muscle strength. But before this can happen, the therapist may have to provide treatments that heal the body enough - to the point that they can do their stretching and exercise routines without being in too much pain and discomfort. Examples of passive physical therapy treatments include ice massage and electrotherapy.

Active Physical Therapy - Stretching and Strengthening Back Pain Exercises: To many people, including myself, it seems strange for doctors and physical therapists to create therapy programs that focus on muscle strengthening when the problems in their backs are related to problems with their discs and spinal nerves. But there are a couple of things to consider. Back surgeries associated have a relatively low probability of success, and they have a lot of potential complications. In many cases, the best thing we can do is to make out backs and bodies stronger and more flexible to stabilize our spines. As our spines become more stable, our symptoms of back pain may go away even when the underlying disc or joint conditions remain.

Active physical therapy (exercise) is often necessary to rehabilitate the spine. A patient's physiotherapy program will include the following three components:
  1. Stretching
  2. Strengthening
  3. Low-impact aerobic conditioning. Some of the safest and most effective low-impact aerobic conditioning exercises include Walking, Swimming, Tai Chi, and Yoga. All of these low impact exercises are available either right outside your driveway or at a local gym.
Let's take a look at each of these three therapy program components and what you may expect from your physical therapist:
  • Stretching for back pain exercises: Many patients with lower back pain or sciatica have tightness in their lower back, buttocks, hip, and upper leg muscles. The hamstrings are often tight in people with lower back pain and should be stretched twice daily. These stretches won't take up much of your time, though patients should take their time while doing them. Other muscles that are often tight in lower back pain patients include the piriformis muscle.
  • Strengthening for back pain exercises: If you make your core muscles and back muscles stronger, you will be more likely to recover from your symptoms faster, and more likely to go longer periods of time between outbreaks of acute back pain. Physical therapists will teach patients several types of dynamic lumbar stabilization exercises so that they may do them at the therapy clinic and at home. These exercises will take up 15-20 minutes of your time every day.
  • Low-impact aerobic conditioning: Low-impact aerobics such as swimming, bicycling, and walking, should be done regularly. Patients should do between 30-40 minutes of these exercises every other day.