What does physiotherapy do? #Physiotherapy Works

At some point in their life most people will become a patient. More often than not, by way of referral or by recommendation from a friend, these people will become physiotherapy patients. The most common goal of people who undergo or seek physiotherapy will be simple and logical. They wish to improve or resolve a problem which has developed and wish to return to a previous level of function with the same quality of life. This is simple enough of a goal which most patients will achieve with varying degrees. However, during an initial assessment the question "what does physiotherapy do?" is often asked. It is a question that does not have enough time dedicated to it to be answered.

Often, people are first time physiotherapy patients and will not know what to expect. They have been told physiotherapy works, but possibly not how. Patients can be apprehensive and nervous of the unknown and not knowing is half the battle meaning fears get exacerbated and exaggerated. Physiotherapists are not renowned for shameless self-promotion unlike Chiropractors etc. How are our patients meant to know what we do if we are unable to succinctly tell them? A simple Google search returns a variety of explanations and definitions  about what physiotherapy is and does, for example;


  • NHS website: "The aim of physiotherapy is to help restore movement and normal body function in cases of illness, injury and disability."


  • Chartered Society of Physiotherapy: "Chartered physiotherapists combine their knowledge and skills to identify an individual patient's functioning needs and improve a broad range of physical problems associated with different systems of the body."


How do we make this definition more broadly known?  Though we are key members of the multidisciplinary team we are often overlooked both in the media and by politicians. Whenever you hear about healthcare in the media you often hear the buzzwords; "Consultants", "GPs", "Doctors", "Nurses", "Cutbacks" and so on. At this years general election it was never more clear that physiotherapy has a low priority with the NHS being the usual topic of importance, but as usual, even failed to pay lip service to us and several other key health professions like OT's, SLT's etc beyond the usual suspects. Our importance, not even acknowledged yet alone highlighted. Physiotherapy is like the quiet well behaved child at the back of class. We work hard, we are often seen but not heard of.


The prevailing image of physiotherapy to the public is that of the sports physiotherapist running onto the pitch with the magic sponge. It does us little justice. Physiotherapy is a very broad profession which functions across many specialities. It would be unfair to misrepresent someone who works as a cardiorespiratory physiotherapist by providing the definition of a musculoskeletal physiotherapist or vice versa. It is important that we talk in broad strokes and keep it simple without underselling what physiotherapy can provide.

There is ongoing work by the CSP to underline the importance and value of physiotherapy and what it can do in the appropriately titled Physiotherapy Works campaign. It serves to highlight the economic value of physiotherapy and what we do. How much of this filters through to the patient though? It would be difficult to say how much public awareness there is amongst non-physiotherapists. However, the value of the campaign should not be understated. Physiotherapy is cost effective and at a time of continued austerity you think you would hear more about the profession as opposed to the continued deafening silence.

Earlier this year, an ongoing series of videos produced by the Physiotherapy Association of British Columbia as part of a campaign called Choose to Move were released. The message was straightforward and effective. We, as physiotherapists, help to promote and maintain natural movement but most importantly help to improve quality of life. It is a simple message but an important one. It is a message we should promote actively to help raise public awareness of our value and not the myth of the magic sponge.


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*In situations like this, Google is both an asset and a liability, please use under advisement and with caution.

Read more from Alex :

The importance of being honest 

Master Manipulators 

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