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What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Physical therapy is a healthcare discipline dedicated to promoting, maintaining, and restoring physical healthPhysical therapy is a healthcare discipline dedicated to promoting, maintaining, and restoring physical health

What they do:

  • A physiotherapist designs and implements a personalized patient rehabilitation protocol after surgery (such as joint replacements, spine surgeries, fracture repair, and repair of ligaments). In absence of a good rehabilitation after a surgery or accident, the joints may turn stiff causing a reduced range of movements.
  • Physiotherapists provide chest physiotherapy to chronically ill and bedridden patients. They help the patients to maintain specific postures and movements to prevent aspiration pneumonia (entry of a solid or liquid into the airways causing inflammation), prevent bedsore formation, and reduce muscle wasting.
  • Many physiotherapists work in exercise physiology and sports medicine settings to design an ideal exercise protocol for the sportsmen to improve their performance with minimal joint wear and tear. They can also help the patient recover from sports injuries.
  • Physiotherapists often work on patients with severe brain and spinal cord damage, which is seen in stroke patients, parkinsonism patients, and Alzheimer’s patients. They carry out active and passive muscle movements on these patients, which can reduce the complications due to muscle wasting and contracture formation (extreme muscle stiffness).
  • Physiotherapists often also work with kids who suffer from cerebral palsy (a group of conditions present since birth that affect muscle tone, posture, and coordination) or other brain conditions to help prevent floppiness in their joints, strengthen the muscles with proper exercises, and improve their coordination.
  • Physiotherapy is an essential part of rehabilitation programs in kids who suffer from neurodevelopmental disorders such as dyslexia, autistic spectrum disorders, and Down’s syndrome.
  • Physiotherapists can work in clinical settings in preventing and treating clients with musculoskeletal conditions such as neck pain, back pain, sciatica, spondylosis, and lordosis.
  • Physiotherapists help the patient’s body adapt to an artificial limb after amputation.

What techniques does a physiotherapist employ?

Depending on the nature of the injury or problem they are treating, physical therapists may employ passive or active physiotherapy.

Passive physiotherapy is a treatment where the physiotherapist moves the patient’s muscles and joints or uses modalities such as

Less frequently, physiotherapists may try deep tissue massage, needling, or joint manipulation to relieve muscle stiffness and pain.

Active physiotherapy means the patient has to make efforts to move their joints and muscles. Here, the physiotherapist may ask the patient to actively assist or resist a movement they are doing as a way to increase strength or flexibility. The physiotherapist will assist the patient as they slowly reinitiates their physical activity and eventually return to the level of activity the patient desires. The patient will be taught the ways one can effectively manage body motions when they are away from the clinic. Active physiotherapy includes demonstrating or teaching the patient proper movement patterns that allow one to heal with minimal discomfort. They will also prescribe specific devices such as belts, trusses, guards, canes, and splints to assist, adapt, support, and protect the patients’ bones, muscles, and joints.

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