Physiotherapy» Find a therapist dealing with Physiotherapy
Physiotherapy, known as physio for short, is a science-based form of healthcare which uses physical methods such as massage and manipulation of the body. It is used to help restore the body’s full range of movement after an injury as well as helping to promote general health and well-being, or treating parts of the body affected by an illness.
It is most commonly used to help:
- sporting injuries
- post-surgery recovery
Anyone can have physiotherapy, and it can take place in a number of different settings and locations. They include hospitals, outpatients clinics, homes, schools, hospices, workplaces and fitness centres.
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Physiotherapy dates back around five thousand years. It was first developed by physicians such as Hippocrates in Ancient Greece. In the 18th century orthopaedics was developed, with the invention of machines to help exercise joints. In the early 1900s many countries launched their own physiotherapy institutes and societies. From the 1950s onwards physiotherapy was practised outside of hospitals.
What happens during a session?
In the first session you will meet the physiotherapist and talk about what results you are looking for. The physiotherapist will also require a detailed medical history from you, highlighting any underlying health problems or injuries.
The physiotherapist will then begin to examine the appropriate areas of the body. You may be required to remove some clothes in order for them to do this. However, you should always feel comfortable, and you can specify a female or male physiotherapist if you would prefer.
After the examination the physiotherapist will suggest the course of treatment they plan to administer, what they will do and why, and how many sessions will be required. When treating an illness, the physiotherapist may advise on how to minimise the effect of the illness on daily life, or in the case of injuries how to prevent it from recurring.
The physiotherapist will use a number of different techniques, depending on the problem they are dealing with. They include:
- Manipulation and massage– using the hands to help relieve pain and stiffness in the muscles, manipulating the body’s soft tissues using the hands. This improves circulation, helps drain fluid, promotes movement and can relieve pain.
- Hydrotherapy (water therapy) – this is carried out in the shallow end of a swimming pool or in a special hydrotherapy bath. The resistance of the water pushes against the body as you exercise. This improves circulation, relieves pain and is relaxing.
- Exercise programmes – taking into account health levels, injuries. The physiotherapies may incorporate specific exercises to help with a particular problem, or a more general recovery plan. For example, you will be advised to do walking or swimming to help with general mobility and recovery, or given a specific exercise to help heal a specific muscle. The exercises often need to be repeated several times a day.
- Electrotherapy – uses small electric currents to make muscles contract. It does not hurt, but the sensation is often described as feeling ‘tingly’. There are several different kinds of electrotherapy.
TENS – transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation sends an electrical current to stop the nerves sending pain signals to the brain, and instead encourage endorphins (natural pain killing hormones) to be released.
Ultrasound – high frequency sound waves treat deep tissues by promoting blood circulation.
Laser therapy – narrow beams of light which help reduce pain and muscle spasms. Not suitable for during pregnancy, for cancer patients or those taking certain kinds of medication.
Shortwave diathermy – an electromagnetic field which generates heat in the body’s tissue. This can help reduce swelling, strengthen tissue and reduce pain.
- Acupuncture – inserting needles just below the skin on certain pressure points. This can help relieve pain.
- Pilates – the gentle movement and stretching of Pilates can sometimes be incorporated into exercise programmes as part of the treatment.
Your first session will last around an hour, and subsequent sessions will last around 30-45 minutes. The physiotherapist may also do some diagnostic tests to assess your strengths and weaknesses to better evaluate your condition.
Many people think that physiotherapy will be painful. This is not the case. Occasionally you may experience a brief amount of pain as the physiotherapist assesses you and tests pain boundaries, but they are aware of what will cause pain. Any discomfort will be part of the healing process.
Physiotherapy is often associated with sports injuries and treating athletes. However, it’s uses extent far beyond the sports field, and can be used by everyone, for a variety of conditions.
Physiotherapists are not personal trainers or fitness advisors, and physiotherapy is not simply a massage or exercise.
What training and qualifications does a physiotherapist need?
Anyone in the UK wishing to practice as a physiotherapist is required by law to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
The HCPC is the UK regulator for the 15 following professions: arts therapists, biomedical scientists, chiropodists / podiatrists, clinical scientists, dietitians, hearing aid dispensers, occupational therapists, operating department practitioners, orthoptists, paramedics, physiotherapists, practitioner psychologists, prosthetists / orthotists, radiographers, and speech and language therapists.
All of the above professions carry at least one title (such as 'physiotherapist') which is protected by law, meaning it is a criminal offence for a practitioner to use any of these titles unless they are registered with the HCPC.
The HCPC's primary role is to protect the public and ensure they have a reliable resource for finding professionals qualified to a high standard. This is why any potential members will have to provide proof of relevant qualifications and experience, must agree to adhere to a Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and must undertake Continued Professional Development to ensure their knowledge and experience continues to grow.
Aside from the HCPC there are also other professional bodies and societies that physiotherapists can choose to register with and become accredited. Much like the HCPC most of these organisations will have a certain set of requirements which potential members must meet in order to join. Though specific requirements will vary from association to association, generally they will involve a high level or training and experience.
Listed below are additional professional associations for physiotherapists. It is not an exhaustive list, but does features the main organisations. To find out more information about accreditation visit the professional bodies’ websites below.
The Acupuncture Association for Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP) is a professional association which aims to integrate acupuncture into physiotherapy practice.
All AACP members are covered by comprehensive professional liability insurance.
The Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Sports Medicine aim to promote awareness of the treatment of sporting injuries using the practice of physiotherapy. Practitioners can choose to register with the association and in order to do so must provide proof of qualifications and must agree to comply with the associations code of ethics and complaints procedure. In addition to this they must also agree to undertake mandatory Continued Professional Development.
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) is an organisation which acts to support those who deliver physiotherapy care, education and research as well as campaigning on behalf of the profession.
The CSP works with both its members and other professional associations in order to promote a high standard of practice in the field of physiotherapy.
In order to join applicants must first agree to abide by the CSP Rules of Professional Conduct and by-laws and must either opt for the CSP professional indemnity insurance or alternatively must provide proof of their own insurance.
Physio First aims to promote good standards of practice within the physiotherapy field and requires all members to participate in a recognised level of Continued Professional Development each year.
In order to join the OCPPP as either a Full, Affiliated, Non-practising or Honorary Life member, applicants must be a member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) as a Physiotherapist.
All Full, Affiliated and Honorary Life (practising) members must agree to comply with the Health Professions Council and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy's Standards and Rules and Regulations.
All content displayed on Therapy Directory is for provided for general information purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for advice given by your GP or any other healthcare professional. Whilst some people have benefited from complementary and alternative therapies, no claims can be made to treat, cure or heal, and we strongly advise individuals with any health problem to seek independent medical advice from their GP before considering complementary or alternative medicine or treatment.Submit feedback on this page