All You Wanted To Know About Physiotherapy

(Last Updated On: August 21, 2017)

Physiotherapy – An overview

Physiotherapy is the branch of medical science that focuses on rehabilitation to remedy injuries or impairments, promote optimal mobility and improve quality of life.

The main goal of physical therapy is to minimize pain and reduce dysfunction. It encompasses all areas of healthcare from Orthopaedics, Geriatrics, Neurology, Rheumatology, Respiratory issues, and Muscular or Skeletal problems.

Services provided in physiotherapy

 Some of the conditions that physiotherapists treat for include –

  • Muscle aches and sprains
  • Foot/ankle/knee problems
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome or hand/wrist problems
  • Hip fracture
  • Back/neck conditions
  • Post-surgical rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation after serious injury (Sports injuries, broken bones, head injuries etc.)
  • Rehabilitation after stroke
  • Issues with balance
  • Rehabilitation after burns
  • Pre-natal and Post-natal care
  • Incontinence
  • Women’s health
  • For achieving a personal sports challenge

 Physiotherapy – History and evolution

Physical therapy dates back to as early as 460 BC when physicians such as Hippocrates practiced massage and hydrotherapy in ancient Greece.

The first noted instance of a modern formal practice of Physiotherapy was in 1813. Pehr Henrik Ling who was considered the “father of Swedish Gymnastics”, founded the Royal Institute of Gymnastics. It was purported as a centre for massage, manipulation and exercise.

Evolution of physiotherapy – The timeline

  • 1813 – PerHenrik Ling, founded the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics
  • 1887 – Sweden recognized and registered Physiotherapy under National Board of Health and welfare.
  • 1894 – UK recognized Physiotherapy as a special branch of nursing
  • 1913 – New Zealand formalized Physiotherapy and created an education program for the study of physical therapy.
  • 1914 – The United States of America created a formal field of study for Physical therapy.
  • 1920 – A polio outbreak emphasized the importance of Physiotherapy in rehabilitation for patients. This created a worldwide recognition for Physiotherapy services.
  • 1921 – The first research paper on physiotherapy was published. A group of healthcare providers and physical therapists formed an organization dedicated to physical therapy called the American Women’s Physical Therapy Association.

By 1939, there were a lot of survivors of the World War II needing physical therapy for war disabilities.  Physical therapy continued to evolve primarily due to the wars and survivors of injuries.

Today there are extensive education and training programs dedicated to the study of physiotherapy. Physiotherapy has now evolved to treat diverse injuries successfully.

Basic qualifications of a physiotherapist

 All physiotherapists are required to have a minimum of 4 years of education with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy. The IAP (Indian Association of Physiotherapy) has an approved list of various Government and Private colleges with various bachelors and masters courses in Physiotherapy.

The Indian Association of Physiotherapy holds an ISO 9001 certification and is an organization with over 30,000 physiotherapists as members.

Why seek a physiotherapist?

 While Google does give out reams of information on injuries, treatments, possible safety issues and so a clinical assessment is still a must.  A licensed physiotherapist can provide

  • Accurate diagnosis – especially when the injury is assessed at the earliest possible time
  • Speedier recovery – a medical evaluation of the injury can help the physical therapist device a management plan for an accelerated recovery
  • Prevention of long-term problems – Getting injuries treated sooner can ensure that there is no lingering damage that will cause painful symptoms.

Scope of Physiotherapy

Although Physiotherapy mainly deals with Physical therapy there are numerous opportunities for research and development in the field. There are multitudes of specializations to choose from such as Paediatrics, Geriatrics, Post-operative, Cardiovascular, Neurology, Sports or Obstetrics physiotherapy.


  • Paediatric Physiotherapy – Assists in early detection of problems. They help with congenital, neuromuscular disorders and improve cognitive and sensory processing or integration. Paediatric physiotherapists also treat children with cerebral palsy.
  • Obstetrics Physiotherapy – Studies have shown that over 2/3 of pregnant women experience back pain and over 40% experience incontinence in the first pregnancy. A physiotherapist specialized in obstetrics would asses the patients posture, strength, flexibility and any muscoskeletal issue bearing on the pregnancy. They would offer individualized care to help improve prenatal fitness, leading to healthier and easier delivery.
  • Sports Physiotherapy – Physiotherapists in this field focus on prevention and management of injuries resulting from sports and exercise. They cater to individuals of all ages and all levels of ability. They also help the athlete improve their performance.
  • Neurology Physiotherapy – Neurological conditions such as stroke, head injuries, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s or spinal Cord injuries require extra-specialized treatments. These indicate damage to the central nervous system due to which information from the brain does not reach the affected part of the body. Neurological physiotherapy helps make new pathways through regular repetitive exercises. This helps improve difficulties with loss of balance, loss of co-ordination, pain etc.
  • Orthopaedic Physiotherapy – This branch of physical therapy focuses on muscles and skeletal systems (bones, ligaments and tendons). Physiotherapists with this specialization generally work with patients post-operation to rehabilitate injured joints, reduce pain after amputation and help with balance and alignment and arthritic patients. They also help with vertigo, headache management, spinal stabilization, myofascial release and work injuries.
  • Geriatric Physiotherapy – This branch of physiotherapy focuses on assisting older adults age healthily. It deals with issues like osteoporosis, joint inflammation, Alzheimer’s and joint substitutions. Falling is one of the greatest risks faced by older adults. Approximately 20% suffering from such accidents die within the year due to such injuries. Geriatric Physiotherapy helps such patients increase their mobility, prevent falls, reduce pain and increase fitness levels.
  • Post Operative Physiotherapy – Post-orthopaedic surgeries, patients definitely require physical therapy to regain mobility and flexibility. The most common surgeries requiring post operative care include shoulder reconstruction/stabilization/rotator cuff repair, Tennis elbow, fractures, carpal tunnel, tendon repair, hip replacements, knee replacements, ligament reconstruction, ankle reconstruction, discectomy, micro-discectomy and spinal fusion.
  • Cardiovascular Physiotherapy – To reduce mortality and improve quality of life for patients suffering from angina, heart attack or strokes physiotherapists specializing in cardiovascular disease care are essential. Studies show that among people suffering from cardio vascular diseases around 30% suffer from back pain, 21% from diabetes and 16% from respiratory diseases such as asthma. Physiotherapists help patients become physically active and provide tailor made programs to benefit the patients.

Need for physiotherapy in the future

As lifestyles change the need for physiotherapy in different walks of life is becoming very apparent. Some areas of physiotherapy that would find a place of prominence include –

  • Geriatric Physical therapy – By 2050 the world population is estimated to be 9.6 billion. More than 2 billion are expected to be over 60 years and around 400 million are expected to be over 80 years. Geriatric Physical therapy is a time-tested means for older adults to age healthily. It helps improve their balance strength, mobility and overall fitness. This will help maintain their independence and increase, restore or maintain their range of motion and co-ordination.
  • Sports rehabilitation – The World cup injuries statistics show the benefits of sports physiotherapy. According to FIFA (Federation International Football Association) there has been 40% decrease in injuries to players in the 2014 games as compared to the games in 2010.
  • Occupational Health Physiotherapy – Organizations are now focusing on occupational health and safety of employees to reduce absenteeism, prevent accidents and increase productivity. Occupational physiotherapy comes in handy when assessing posture at workplace or workstation, pre-assessment of employees to determine their capability of performing a particular job and more. Occupational physiotherapists proactively promote health and well being at the work place and help workers avoid sickness and injury. They also save the organizations losses in economic output due to absent or injured workers.
  • Oncology physiotherapy – The World Health Organization statistics indicate that there were over 8.8 million deaths in 2015due to cancer. The number of cases of patients suffering from cancer is expected to rise from 14 million in 2012 by 70% over next 2 decades. People suffering from cancer succumb to cancer related fatigue, reduced balance and mobility, loss of muscle strength and breathing disorders. Oncology Physiotherapists can help these patients during various stages of their treatments and help give them a better quality of life.
  • Robotics in Physiotherapy – The role of robotics has become increasingly positive in rehabilitation. There have been proven studies on limb rehabilitation post surgery, walking training and more for patients who have suffered from strokes. There is a need for research on development on more biomedical instrumentation that would help physiotherapists assist patients in resuming their lives without too much of a hiccup after an injury or surgery.

Why seek a physiotherapist?

Studies show that exercises as therapy has greater effect when monitored by a health professional. Physiotherapists have in-depth knowledge of the human anatomy, of the body and of movement. They understand the strain of injuries and effort involved in regaining function, mobility and flexibility after an injury. They also have knowledge of the toll it takes on the patients. Their entire careers are focussed on promoting wellbeing and independence of their patients.

Physiotherapy is the key to successfully push physical limitations and restore or maintain physical function at optimal levels of mobility and flexibility. If you want to avail physiotherapy services, you can always contact Portea Physiotherapy



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