Physiotherapy is a manual therapy designed to promote, prevent, maintain, and restore physical functioning throughout the lifespan.
Functional movement is an important aspect of health, and significantly adds to one’s quality of life and wellbeing. Physiotherapists have a comprehensive understanding of the musculoskeletal system, human movement, and the physical, social and environmental factors that affect optimal functioning, including ageing, injury, pain, disability, and disease. Physiotherapists work to enhance independent living and workability by reducing physical limitations, restrictions, and disabilities.
Working in areas of healthcare involving treatment/intervention, habilitation and rehabilitation, physiotherapists perform biomechanical assessments to determine a patient’s posture, movement patterns, strength, flexibility, range of motion, etc. Physiotherapy recognizes the significance of physical activity and the patients’ dynamic response to exercise. Therefore, treatment programs are unique to the individual, and designed to restore coherence of body systems, maximise movement, and decrease disability. Treatment techniques often include specific exercises, joint mobilisation and manipulation, minimal energy techniques (MET), muscle stretching, massage and taping, as well as ultrasound and physiotherapy instrument mobilisation (PIM).
A large body of research has shown that physiotherapy can be effective in:
- Improving range of motion
- Improving physical functioning
- Decreasing tissue, joint, and headache pain
- Promoting healing
- Improving temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
Types of Physiotherapies
Joint Mobilization and Manipulation
Joint mobilization and manipulation is often used to relieve pain in the joints and increase range of motion, as well as to decrease muscle spasm, stiffness, and hypermobility of a joint. Physiotherapists often use rotation, gliding, stretching, and prolonged holding techniques to mobilize joints.
Minimal Energy Techniques (MET)
MET is a technique that uses the muscle’s energy to relax and lengthen the muscle. During the technique, the patient contracts the muscle in a specific position while the physiotherapist applies a counterforce. MET is often used to increase range of motion, and decrease tightness, stiffness, and pain.
Therapeutic ultrasound uses a device that emits ultrasound waves which travel through the skin, causing the tissue below to vibrate and heat up. This effect further stimulates increased blood flow, which helps to reduce swelling and inflammation in the area. Ultrasound has been shown to accelerate soft tissue, bone and joint healing, and is commonly used to decrease joint stiffness, muscle spasm and pain. Pulsed exposure is also used to reduce the thermal effects in areas of acute inflammation. Ultrasound can also be used to apply medication, such as cortisone, into tissue under the skin.
Physiotherapy Instrument Mobilisation (PIM)
PIM is a spring-loaded instrument designed to mobilize spinal and peripheral joints, and is commonly used to relieve joint pain and stiffness. It is based on the physiotherapy principles of joint motion and manipulation incorporated in Maitland Mobilisations and Mulligan Concepts, as well as osteopathic principles.