Physiotherapy is used to treat many different health conditions and uses a very wide range of treatment techniques.
What is physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy (physio) helps to improve movement and function if you are affected by an injury, illness or disability. It can also help to reduce your risk of further injury or disability in the future.
What is a physiotherapist?
Physiotherapy is provided by specially trained health practitioners called physiotherapists. Physiotherapists in the UK must by law be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), the UK's regulatory body for health and care professionals.
Physiotherapists often work as part of a team with other healthcare professionals, such as doctors, nurses and occupational therapists. Physiotherapists work in various settings, including hospitals, health centres, GP surgeries, sports clubs and even some places of work. Some physiotherapists can offer physiotherapy treatment at your home.
A Bachelor of Science degree (BSc) in physical therapy, as well as a physiotherapy licence are necessary to become a physiotherapist. The physiotherapy degree must be certified by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.
Physiotherapists may also complete a further degree in a specific speciality, such as orthopaedics or sports medicine.
What is the role of a physiotherapist?
Physiotherapy can be very helpful for people with a wide range of health conditions, including:
- Bone, joint or soft tissue problems - eg, back, neck, hip, foot or shoulder pain, osteoporosis and arthritis. This includes:
- Sports injuries.
- Injuries from lifting incorrectly.
- Pain related to your posture or occupation (for instance, if you spend long periods driving or sitting).
- Issues with general mobility and getting around.
- Maximising sporting performance and preventing injury.
- Movement and function problems caused by conditions affecting the brain, nerves and muscles, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and cerebral palsy.
- Rehabilitation after a heart attack or after hospital care, bed rest or surgery.
- Lung conditions - eg, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and cystic fibrosis.
- Bladder conditions - eg, urinary incontinence.
- Women's health problems including prolapse and some causes of painful sex.
What does a physiotherapist do?
Physiotherapists can provide a very broad range of help, including:
- Education and advice - eg, to improve posture, lifting and carrying, to help improve pain and disability and to help prevent any further injuries.
- Exercises may be demonstrated and recommended to improve your general health and mobility, and to strengthen specific parts of your body.
- Manual therapy, using their hands to help relieve pain and stiffness, and to improve movement of the affected parts of the body.
- Other techniques such as movements in water (hydrotherapy), or acupuncture.
How can you find physiotherapy near to you?
Physiotherapy is available through the NHS or privately. NHS physiotherapy can sometimes be offered by self-referral but often needs a referral from your GP.
Alternatively you can pay for private treatment. Most private physiotherapists accept self-referral but it may still be helpful to have a letter from your GP so that the physiotherapist is fully aware of any health issues that may be relevant to the physiotherapy treatment you receive.