The Challenging World of Physiotherapy
The world of physiotherapy has broadened in recent years, to the extent there are numerous specialties, similar to what can be found in the field of medicine. In general, a physiotherapist treats disorders of the musculoskeletal system. The goal of the therapist is to repair injuries to the various muscles and joints, restoring function, so that the individual muscles, bones, and joints function together as a whole.


One category of physiotherapy is the area of orthopedics. This category includes any injury to the muscles or joints, including sports injuries. This may involve something as simple as a sprained ankle or something more serious like torn ligaments and tendons. Patients who have had joint surgeries are also treated and rehabilitated. This includes back surgeries, as the vertebrae of the back are considered to be the joints of the spinal column.


Treatments for orthopedic injuries and surgeries include using ice, heat, electrical stimulation, deep tissue massage, and cupping. Ice decreases swelling, while heat increases circulation and healing. Deep tissue massage relaxes tight, painful muscles. Dry needling also relaxes tight muscles. During dry needling, acupuncture needles are inserted into the belly of the muscle, causing it to "grip" the needle. After a few seconds, the muscle tires and relaxes. Cupping applies strong suction to the skin and underlying tissues, increasing circulation and relaxation. Relaxed muscles are able to move more easily.


After muscles are softened and relaxed from these treatments, strengthening exercises are initiated. For a back patient, these exercises include "core strengthening" exercises of the abdomen. Someone who has had joint surgery will regain function in the joint by range of motion exercises. They will also use colorful, stretchy bands called therabands to increase strength in the joint. Each color represents a certain "tightness" to the band.


Another area of physiotherapy includes geriatrics. There isn't a long term care facility in the country that doesn't employ at least one physiotherapist. They generally concentrate on range of motion exercises of the residents' extremities and gait training. This is often in response to age related diseases like strokes and arthritis.


Of course, any individual who undergoes cardiovascular surgery will be instructed in "cardiac rehab." This involves using the unique machines found in the physiotherapy department. These machines include exercise bicycles and treadmills. These activities are closely monitored by the therapist or even nurses.


A new specialty for physiotherapists is in the area of pelvic floor therapy. This specialty has developed in response to pain related disorders of the pelvis, such as pudendal neuralgia. The pudendal nerve is a nerve in the pelvis that can become compressed by the ligaments and muscles, making it painful to sit. The therapist uses internal and external manipulation to relax the muscles of the pelvic floor.


Physiotherapy addresses pain and dysfunction in virtually every area of the body. It gives new meaning to the term, "body mechanic." The physiotherapist is a body mechanic who restores the functioning of the body as a whole, making it a smoothly operating machine.
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