Considering physiotherapy? Here’s everything you need to know
In the wake of an injury or illness, physiotherapy is a cornerstone of the recovery process. And for good reason. Rooted in medical science, it’s a tried and tested way to restore movement and strength to parts of the body, and map out a plan to manage issues in the future.
Some misconceptions linger around physiotherapy. Some think physios are only for elite sports players. Others think the only route to a physiotherapy assessment is via a doctor’s note. Neither of these are true – it’s a broad area of practice, and you can directly access it privately. Help with that sharp pain in your shoulder or the knee that hasn’t felt right for a while is closer than you think. Here’s some more information on physio so you can see if it’s right for you.
The benefits of physiotherapy
Time with a physiotherapist can be immensely valuable for those with health conditions that affect movement. All practitioners can help with:
- Sporting injuries
- Musculoskeletal (MSK) injuries
- Chronic back and neck pain
For more specific issues, it’s worth doing some research into different physios’ areas of expertise. Practitioners can specialise in:
- Issues with movement related to the central nervous system, for example impaired movement after a stroke
- Cardiovascular issues, such as rehabilitation after a heart attack
- Issues with the respiratory system
- Pre- and post- natal care
Physiotherapy can be used for preparation too, to help build up parts of the body ahead of operations and sporting events.
What happens in a physiotherapy session?
Physiotherapy sessions normally begin with an assessment of your physical condition, including tests on the strength and range of motion of problem areas. You may be asked questions about your general health and level of activity.
Most sessions also include some manual treatment. Usually this includes stretching, manipulation of joints and some exercises – none of these should be painful, but some exercises need to be tiring to be effective.
Alongside typical manual treatments, some physiotherapists have their own specialist skillsets and are able to offer treatments like:
- Dry needling
- Kinesiology taping
- Trigger point therapy
Your physio will leave you with an understanding of the causes of discomfort and a plan for recovery – this typically includes a routine of daily stretches and exercises, recommendations on further treatments and a timeline for improvements.
It’s worth bearing in mind that a physio might refer you to another medical specialist if they think you’ll be better off being seen by a practitioner with a different set of skills.
How to prepare for physiotherapy
You won’t need to do a great deal of preparation for a physiotherapy session, but it’s best to wear light, comfortable clothing suitable for exercise. Your physio might need you to undress down to your underwear as part of their initial assessment – if you’d rather stay dressed, wear some shorts and a t-shirt or sports bra/crop top.
If you’re booking an at-home session with the Urban app, your physiotherapist will need roughly 2x2m of floor space to set up their table, and it’s a good idea to set your treatment space to a comfortable temperature. If you own any sports equipment, such as resistance bands or a foam roller, have them to hand as extra tools for your session.
What happens after physiotherapy?
During your initial consultation, your physio will work with you to plot a path to recovery. This may include further referral onto another medical specialist, or follow-up sessions. They may also leave you with a series of exercises to practice in the following days and weeks.
In the days after your initial consultation, you may feel some slight discomfort, particularly if you’ve tried new exercises that your body needs to adapt to. In general, physiotherapy shouldn’t hurt, however, as practitioners are trained to provide treatment in a way that relieves rather than aggravates pain.
How often should I see a physiotherapist?
How often you need to meet with your physio can depend on your physical condition, however repeat treatments allow your practitioner to monitor your progress and adjust your recovery plan. Over time, physios might introduce new manual therapy techniques and exercises to keep your recovery on the right track and make sure the results are long-lasting.
Booking at-home physio via the Urban app, or on urban.co, is easy – just choose a practitioner and set a time for your appointment. They’re on standby, ready to be with you in as little as 60 minutes.
Urban physiotherapists are all fully registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). That means they’ve got a three- or four-year degree programme under their belt, and a minimum of a thousand hours of clinical training. You’re in good hands.