Road to recovery: Under 19 Bermuda rugby player Patrick Richardson undergoing video gait analysis assessment by physiotherapist Daniel Morgan following a hamstring injury. *Photo supplied
Road to recovery: Under 19 Bermuda rugby player Patrick Richardson undergoing video gait analysis assessment by physiotherapist Daniel Morgan following a hamstring injury. *Photo supplied

Most people associate physiotherapy with sprained ankles and dislocated shoulders on the football pitch, however there are many other areas in which people benefit from physiotherapy in the community.

Physiotherapy is used following many neurological conditions (head injuries and multiple sclerosis), cardiopulmonary conditions (stroke and heart disease) and orthopaedic conditions (knee and hip joint replacement).

Physiotherapy is beneficial for the young and old; it is used for the clearance of chest secretions in the lungs of premature infants and also for the prevention of falls in the elderly.

What is physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy or physical therapy is the assessment and treatment of disease and disability through physical means. Its initial roots are based in the massage field, but physiotherapy evolved to be an integral member in the multidisciplinary medical team.

Physiotherapists are regularly employed by sporting associations, industry, hospital intensive care, neurological, surgical and medical units, schools, outpatient departments and government.

The primary goal of physiotherapy is to return the person to full function following injury. A sound understanding of the functional demands placed on the individual, as well as the type of tissue injured will help guide the treatment regime.

Physiotherapy looks at many factors that must be addressed after injury with the most prevalent being pain, swelling, flexibility, strength and core stability. Initial treatment is normally along the lines of first aid using the acronym RICE:  Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

Sometimes the term MICE is used to include gentle massage as well.

Further treatment may include the use of specific therapeutic exercises, range of motion stretching, mobilizing of soft tissues and joints, gait training, heat, ice or electrotherapy modalities just to name a few.

Inflammation is the body’s mechanism to heal itself following injury, so anti-inflammatory medications are commonly prescribed by doctors where there are no pre-existing conditions preventing the person from taking them.

It is important to see your general practitioner following injury as many serious medical conditions can masquerade as simple injuries.

In the later stages of treatment commonly referred to as rehabilitation, functional exercises are used to progressively load the injured structure in order to prepare the body to withstand the demands that will be placed on it when they return to full activity.

By understanding the body’s healing process, the benefits of physiotherapy can be as seen as the individual returns to full fitness.

Prevention is the key

Increasingly, physiotherapists have taken a more holistic preventative approach to reducing the risk of injury.

Measures, such as making sure that individuals employ correct training techniques if they are athletes, or correct lifting techniques if they work in industry, are used to reduce the chance of injury before needing treatment.

Similarly, ensuring that office workers optimize correct sitting postures at their desks and correct work practices has been coined ‘ergonomics’.

Many of the injuries that physiotherapy aims to prevent fall into the category of overuse injuries.

They may affect the lower limbs such as Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis or shin splints, or the upper limbs such as tennis elbow and or de Quervain’s tenosynovitis. Similarly, repetitive strain injuries are seen in individuals that undertake repeated movements that result in injury.

Physiotherapy used in conjunction with taping and splinting may also be of benefit.

Once the condition settles, physiotherapy is geared towards altering faulty body biomechanics in order to prevent a recurrence of the problem.

In conclusion, the major benefit of physiotherapy after injury is to give you the best possible chance of making a full recovery.

With this, a safe return to activity can be achieved as quickly as possible without the risk of re-injury.