If you have ever struggled to recover from a sports injury or a motor vehicle collision you will surely appreciate the help of a physiotherapist. Thanks to an integrated “circle of care” philosophy, physiotherapy (also known as physical therapy) is a powerful approach to diagnosing and treating a range of injuries and disorders.
The ultimate goal of your physiotherapist is to identify diminished abilities and physical hurdles, and then work with you to create a program that works to restore optimal physical health.
Physiotherapy works well in a number of scenarios, including:
If you are an athlete struggling to regain lost ability, physiotherapy can be a strategic way to quicken your recovery.
Recovering from car accidents
Thanks to their training, physiotherapists are often best-suited to identify and treat soft-tissue injuries experienced as a result of a motor vehicle collision.
Treating chronic illness and chronic pain
Physiotherapy can help treat many chronic conditions that affect your quality of life, including lower back pain, pinched nerves and sciatica. Physiotherapy can also speed recovery from a variety of injuries.
Because of its therapeutic value, physiotherapy is often covered by workplace health insurance plans.
We have prepared this guide to help you understand what physiotherapy is and how it can help you recover from injuries and achieve optimum health and performance.
Along the way we will explain some common injuries and conditions, and how physical therapy can help treat them.
Physiotherapy or physical therapy? What’s the difference?
The terms “physiotherapy” and “physical therapy” are interchangeable and describe the same field of healthcare.
As highly-trained medical professionals, physical therapists must complete at least an undergraduate program that includes clinical practice followed by internship. Many physiotherapists go on to complete a graduate degree programme specializing in physiotherapy.
This rigorous training qualifies physiotherapists to diagnose injuries and assess how their clients should be able to move or perform.
Based on these insights, physiotherapists can then build a treatment program as well as provide an integrated recovery plan that includes a variety of treatment options including:
- Chiropractic care, including Active Release Technique
- Massage therapy
- Exercise rehabilitation
- Neurologic Re-Training
Physiotherapy: an Integrated, Team Approach to Healing
Physiotherapy is fundamentally about providing a one-stop experience, a “synergy” of treatments that gives our own clinic its name.
Physiotherapists often work with other specialists such as massage therapists, sports doctors, technicians and others. Often these professionals work as a team at an integrated healthcare clinic.
Thanks to a “circle of care” approach that integrates a variety of healthcare practices and diagnostic tools, a variety of injuries and conditions can all be treated methodically and successfully by physiotherapy.
This team approach also means that patients receive the best possible treatment in the quickest period of time. Physiotherapy is all about speeding recovery, reducing pain and restoring you to your optimum performance.
Treating Chronic Pain, Helping Speed Recovery from Injuries
Most of us at some point will live with chronic pain that seriously affects our quality of life. Those of us leading a sedentary, desk-bound lifestyle are just as prone to chronic pain as people leading more active lifestyles that leads to sports injuries. And anyone can be involved in an automobile collision.
Physiotherapy uses a multi-disciplinary approach to treating:
- Chronic pain
- Sports injuries
- Soft-tissue injuries
As well, more serious, complex injuries can also be treated to speed healing.
Treating Chronic Pain Caused By Pinched Nerves, Sciatica, and Other Conditions
Physiotherapy can help not only help recovery from a variety of conditions that cause chronic pain, but can determine the cause of the pain itself.
There is the concept of a “keystone change” where, if we make or experience a key shift in our bodies, then a cascade of other changes will occur as a result.
Sciatica, commonly referred to a pinched nerve or slipped disc, is one such example.
Anything from obesity and poor physical fitness, to injury experienced in a car accident can result in sciatica. A keystone change can result in tension on muscles can twist the spine at the hips and causing pressure on the sciatic nerve.
The result can be excruciating pain, numbness and loss of mobility.
By using a variety of appropriate techniques and practices, physiotherapists can remove pressure throughout the entire spine up to the base of the skull.
A Holistic Approach to Treating Chronic Nerve Pain
Physiotherapists can create a unique, holistic recovery plan to help you recover from sciatica and chronic nerve pain.
For example, a careful rehabilitation plan might include exercise and weight loss.
Physical therapists can also prescribe other more specialized treatments including Shockwave Therapy or Spinal Decompression, as well as chiropractic treatments.
Physiotherapy and Motor Vehicle Collisions
There are approximately 52,000 motor vehicle collisions each year in British Columbia. Recovering from a collision can take time since injuries such as whiplash tend to be complex.
The symptoms of whiplash occur when the vertebral joints and associated muscles and nerves are subjected to uncommon forces and movements associated with a car accident.
Car accidents often result in more than just whiplash. Someone in a car accident is typically injured in more than one place and in more than one way, with the most common injuries occurring to the upper spine, and neck.
Other common conditions following an automobile accident can include:
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Ligament tears
Addressing Whiplash, Soft Tissue Injuries and a “Keystone Change”
These injuries can continue to manifest themselves for more than a year after the automobile collision. On top of that, experiencing a soft tissue injury in an accident can act as a keystone change that can cause pain in other seemingly unrelated parts of the body.
The challenge is that the medical system often does not have the tools to diagnose the soft tissue injuries that are commonly the result of automobile accidents.
There is no easy way to X-ray tendons or bruised muscle. Medical doctors often refer their patients to a physiotherapist who has the specialized training needed to evaluate, diagnose, and then create a treatment plan.
As a complementary or integrated form of medicine, physiotherapy provides powerful tools to help patients recover from soft tissue injuries.
How Physiotherapy Treats Whiplash and Other Soft Tissue Injuries
Once again, because of their integrated approach, physiotherapists are uniquely positioned to help prepare an individualized plan that can help you recover more quickly.
Common treatments a physiotherapist might prescribe to help you recover from a car crash include:
- Shockwave Therapy
- Chiropractic care
- Massage therapy
For example, to effectively treat something like whiplash you have to treat more than one condition. Shockwave Therapy is great for treating chronic pain with ligaments, while chiropractic care can help with back injuries.
Once again, helping you recover is all about being able to correctly assess your injury and then choose from a variety of options to create the best recovery plan possible.
The Physical Therapist: Your Partner in Achieving Optimum Sports Performance
In Victoria we’re lucky that to live in a place with such beautiful weather year-round. We can run, cycle, or even hit the golf course all year long. One reason why so many people choose to live here is because of this ability to practice their sport even in winter.
So, despite a potential to enjoy a year-round training schedule to up performance and achieve goals, it can be frustrating for someone from Victoria to be sidelined because of injury.
If you’re active and you’re injured and experiencing pain and decreased performance, working with a physiotherapist can help return you to peak performance more quickly.
As rehabilitation specialists, physiotherapists can wield many therapies and strategies from sports medicine to diagnose and determine the cause of your injury and create a rehab plan to get you back into action.
Common conditions that physiotherapy can help treat include:
- Rotator cuff injuries
- Plantar fasciitis
- Tennis elbow
Along the way, a physiotherapist can also provide you with techniques and strategies for improving your performance – and avoiding sports injuries in the first place.
As well, sports medicine deals not only with injured athletes, but also with many everyday muscular complaints such as back pain, mobility issues, postural problems and work related conditions.
How Physiotherapists Approach Sports Rehabilitation
Once again, physiotherapists have access to a wide variety of treatments and strategies that they use to tailor individualized training plans.
Physiotherapists typically integrate a number of treatments in order to create a rehabilitation plan, including:
- Pilates and personal training
Using a collaborative approach, our certified practitioners create customized, one-on-one rehabilitation sessions that address the individual needs specific to each client.
Physiotherapy: Creating a “Circle of Care” that Integrates the Right Treatments
The old approach to medicine was that if you were in an auto accident or were recovering from injury you would receive one specific treatment at a time. Treatment would continue until it stopped working. After that your doctor would send you somewhere else to try another approach.
In the past, healing according to this trial-and-error approach would take a lot of time, if you healed at all.
In contrast, physiotherapy is based on an integrated multidisciplinary approach, where patients can receive a complete “circle of care.” Physical therapists work as part of a team, choosing from a “menu” of therapies the best treatment for each patient and each injury.
The end result is a quicker, true recovery.
Mayo Clinic: Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation
Whiplash: Symptoms and Treatment