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A Physiotherapist is a specialized type of Physical Therapist. Also known as: Chartered Physiotherapist, Sport Physiotherapist, Pediatric Physiotherapist, Orthopaedic Physiotherapist, Neurological Physiotherapist, Geriatric Physiotherapist, Clinical Electrophysiotherapist, Cardiopulmonary Physiotherapist.
A physiotherapist is a health care professional who helps patients achieve maximum range of movement and physical ability, either by developing it in the first place or restoring it after loss of physical ability due to illness, injury or aging. Physiotherapists are usually called physical therapists in the United States, but the term physiotherapist is favoured in the rest of the English-speaking world.
When taking on a new patient, a physiotherapist will take his/her health history and perform a physical examination. He will then develop a treatment plan tailored to the patient's needs. Some of the treatments that physiotherapists use are as follows:
Physiotherapists do not just work with people after an injury, but can be found working in many fields of specialty.
- help their patients gain endurance in the face of cardiac (heart) or pulmonary (lung) illnesses or after surgery. Sometimes, especially for heart attack patients, the therapist will give advice on health and nutrition. They may also use manual therapies to help clear the lungs in patients with certain lung diseases, such as cystic fibrosis.
- use electrical stimulation and other tactics to promote healing in stubborn wounds such as burns, sores on diabetics, or post-amputation wounds.
- are prepared to deal with the special needs of the elderly and help them continue to maintain as active a lifestyle as possible.
- specialize in patients that could have any one of many neurological illnesses or injuries. This includes Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), stroke, or injury to the brain or spinal cord. These patients need help with things like coordination, balance, ambulation, muscle strength, or daily living skills.
- are probably what most people think of when they think of physiotherapy. They treat problems with the musculoskeletal system, most often after an injury or orthopaedic surgery. Common therapies include massage, joint manipulation, exercises, heat or cold application, and electrical stimulation.
- are specially trained to meet the needs of children. They treat children with developmental delays, congenital problems, injuries, or illness.
- specialize in working with athletes and their unique needs. The sports therapist helps athletes function at their peak, aids in preventing injuries, and helps athletes return to maximum performance after an injury. Major sports teams usually employ their own physiotherapists.
Women's Health Physiotherapists
- specialize in women's health. This specialty helps women recover from such issues as incontinence (usually resulting from pregnancy and childbirth), pelvic pain, or sexual dysfunction that is due to a physical problem.
The above eight specialties are board-certifiable by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties; however physiotherapists certainly are not limited to those eight areas. A physiotherapist may choose to focus on a particular passion or interest and build his or her practice from that point.
For example, a therapist with a passion for horseback riding may choose to pursue education in sports therapy, and then focus their efforts on gaining clients who are also equestrians. The therapist will be able to use his/her own knowledge and expertise in the field to help the clients in a way that a therapist who doesn't ride might not be able to do.
There are even some physiotherapists who focus on helping musicians, who may develop repetitive use injuries from practicing several hours per day. Any orthopaedic physiotherapist could give the musician exercises and provide treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis, but only one who is also a trained musician could properly advise the client how to modify his playing to avoid further injury. This is just one more example of how a physiotherapist can use his or her areas of expertise and meld that with a career in physiotherapy.
Physiotherapists have a wide variety of employment opportunities. They may work in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, private practices, or with a sports team. They may also work for the government, in research, or they may even teach at physical therapy schools.
A physiotherapist must first have a desire to help people and possess good communication skills. He/she must also have an interest in and aptitude for the medical field and in health and nutrition.
Educational requirements for this career vary greatly from country to country, but in the United States, Canada, and Europe, most physiotherapists achieve post-graduate education. In the United States, they must go through clinical rotations before graduating from a doctoral program.
A chiropractor has extensive experience and practice at using manipulation of the spine as a treatment technique. Some chiropractors also use muscle release techniques like A.R.T. (Active Release or Trigenics). Similar to a chiropractor, a physiotherapist has the ability to manipulate the spine and perform muscle release techniques. In addition, they can also use acupuncture, help the client work on posture and balance, teach core stability exercises, and help prevent the problem from arising again by showing the client rehabilitative exercises they can do at home.
Physical therapists use a holistic approach that is based on the manual treatment of soft tissue, for example, tendons, ligaments, muscles and fascia. They do not specifically treat the spine. Physical therapists complete a three year part time degree which will consist of twenty weekends per year over three years, and carry out their clinical practice in a private setting.
Physiotherapists have an extensive scientific and clinical background which helps them assess, diagnose and treat illnesses and conditions. They use electrotherapy, medical acupuncture and dry needling, manipulation, mobilization, massage, and prescriptive exercise to help their patients. Physiotherapists complete a four year full time degree, which includes one thousand hours of clinical placement in a community, primary care, or hospital setting prior to qualification.
Although sometimes used interchangeably the titles 'Physiotherapist' and 'physical therapist' are actually quite distinct from each other. Inspired by a recent question from one of our clients I will share some details that should help to explain what the difference is between a Chartered Physiotherapist and a physical therapist.
Physios are notoriously known as the ‘magic sponge men’, but there’s obviously more to the job than running on the pitch with a sponge and bucket of water these days.
As a physiotherapist, I find the most exciting time with a patient to be the day that I get to discharge them. It’s not that I do not enjoying seeing my patients, I do, but discharge means that patient has reached their goals and that is why I am a physiotherapist.
Helping people to regain movement in their bodies can be slow and frustrating – but, Robert Goddard tells Leo Benedictus, the rewards are immense.
Physiotherapy helps restore movement and function when someone is affected by injury, illness or disability.