Physiotherapy, also called physical therapy or shortened to PT, is treatment based on the science of human movement. A wide range of methods are used to regain or maintain mobility, alleviate pain, and restore function.
While physically exercising different parts of the body is a major component of physiotherapy, the body-mind connection is also key. Retraining the brain as the controller of the body’s movement plays a major role in improving and maintaining function when neurological injuries or conditions are present.
What Do Physiotherapists Treat?
Physiotherapists treat any issue that interferes with body movement or function. These may stem from a physical injury, like a broken leg; a traumatic brain injury, like concussion; an internal brain injury, like stroke; or a neurological condition, like Muscular Dystrophy. Physiotherapy is a rehabilitative branch of medicine, meaning that its purpose is to not to treat the injury or disease itself, but rather to restore or maintain function in spite of the cause.
Since physiotherapy can help with so many different issues, some physiotherapists specialize. Abilities Neurological Rehabilitation provides specialists in the treatment of neurological injuries and diseases, and can also help individuals avoid further impairment. We offer programs for concussion, stroke, dementia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and other neurological issues that require rehabilitative or maintenance therapy.
What Kind of Training Do Physios Have?
Physiotherapy is a regulated profession in Canada. Physiotherapists must have a degree in physiotherapy from an accredited university; must pass a national competency exam; and must be a member in good standing of their provincial or territorial college.
University training includes general sciences, exercise and movement sciences, clinical decision making, and, musculoskeletal, neurological and cardiorespiratory clinical practice. In addition, students must perform the equivalent of about a year of clinical practice in various aspects of care.
The national and provincial/territorial regulating bodies assess the applicant’s knowledge and skills before allowing them to practice as a physio.
Will I Have the Same Physiotherapist Every Time?
In most cases, yes. Many physiotherapists are specialists in certain areas, so there may be times when your physiotherapist may ask a colleague to perform certain therapies. Your physiotherapist may also have an assistant help with some therapies.
How Often Will I Need to Have Physio?
There are quite a number of factors that will determine the best schedule for your physiotherapy. After speaking with you to understand your needs and goals, and completing an assessment, your therapist will discuss an individualized treatment plan with you. This may include options for doing more therapy at home or attending intensive therapy at the clinic.
Working with Physios and Other Health Professionals
Absolutely. Physiotherapists are known as “allied health professionals,” (along with occupational therapists and speech therapists, among others). When physiotherapy is recommended, your physiotherapist becomes part of your overall health care team and will consult with other team members as needed.
An assessment of your overall health, current medical conditions, mobility issues, and goals from therapy, will determine the type of methods used. These may include:
- Manual manipulation by the therapist, like lifting your leg to stretch muscles.
- Having you repeat specific movements, like following a moving object with your eyes without moving your head.
- Having you repeat specific exercises to strengthen muscles and make new neural pathways.
- Electrotherapy, which sends a tiny current of electricity between two points on the body to stimulate nerve and muscle cells.
- Ultrasound, which sends sound waves into the body, acting like a gentle massage for deep tissue.
Constraint therapy is a therapeutic technique employed to improve function in a particular body part, usually an arm or leg. For example, the “good arm” is restrained, forcing you to use the “bad arm” to complete a task. Repetitive use of the bad arm improves its function by increasing muscle tone and, sometimes, more importantly, generating new neural pathways.
Neurodiversity Affirming Therapy
Neurodiversity affirming therapy is an approach that applies not only to physiotherapy, but to occupational therapy, speech therapy, and all of the neurological rehabilitation therapies we provide. Neurodiversity affirmation is really a belief system that acknowledges and accepts individual differences, rather than viewing autism, Tourette’s, obsessive tendencies, or similar conditions, as disorders to be alleviated.
Providing neurodiverse affirming physiotherapy may mean lowering the lighting in the treatment area, using a different treatment technique (like electrical stimulation instead of hands-on), devising a method of movement that causes less strain or stress, or changing habits.
Suspected concussion should be immediately assessed by a physician. The initial treatment is usually a period of rest, during which time the brain starts to heal and symptoms may subside. A concussion is a neurological injury, so when symptoms persist, neurological physiotherapy is one of the best treatments and can help concussion management.
Dizziness and Balance Problems
Yes. Dizziness and problems with balance usually stem from issues with the vestibular system. Neurological physiotherapy is one of the primary modalities for treating vestibular disorders. There are a number of therapies and techniques to resolve vestibular issues, which may also include nausea, problems with vision, concentration, and fatigue. We can help with vestibular rehabilitation.