Whether it’s getting you back on your feet after knee surgery or helping you deal with chronic pain, physiotherapy and a good physiotherapist have ways to help you.
What does a Physiotherapist do?
- Assess, diagnose, and treat physical symptoms and limited movement caused by injury, aging, disability, or health condition
- Help patients understand what’s causing their condition
- Work with patients to restore, maintain and maximize movement, flexibility, and physical independence
- Develop customized treatment plans
- Teach patients how to restore, maintain and/or maximize movement, reduce pain, and manage any chronic symptoms
- Teach patients how to stay well, avoid future injury and achieve the best quality of life possible
These specialized health-care providers help people with everything from back pain to whiplash, pregnancy-related muscle/joint issues, managing chronic conditions (like arthritis and ongoing pain,) and vertigo.
Of course, the degree to which a physiotherapist can help varies depending on each patient. Essentially, a physiotherapist’s job is to help you move and feel better.
Diana Austman has seen first-hand just how much you can benefit from physiotherapy.
The Calgarian, who is a candidate for knee replacement surgery, was struggling with pain which made everyday activities difficult. With no surgical solution in sight, her doctor sent her to a physiotherapist.
She joined a physiotherapist-led program that teaches people certain ways to exercise.
“They were strengthening the other muscles in my legs,” Austman says. “It helped immensely. I was relieved physically and mentally and not so desperate for surgery because of them.”
Tim Kutash, a physiotherapist for nearly three decades, says he likes to give patients 'exercise prescriptions,’ to help them help their body.
“At the end of the day, we promote healing, restore the body's function and therefore improve quality of life,” says Kutash who owns the Calgary-based Crowfoot Physiotherapy. “There’s an educational aspect in there as well, so there’s injury prevention for sure.”
Kutash, whose focus is in the area of chronic pain, says the work is incredibly rewarding.
“I still have patients coming here telling me, ‘You gave me some back exercises 20 years ago and they still work,’” he says. “You are not just getting them back from an ankle sprain. You’re getting their life back.”
Along with specific treatment approaches, educating patients is a key role for physiotherapists who typically see them as partners in their care.
And although some might see these professionals and their services as a luxury, they are very much “primary health-care professionals,” according to the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.
“They combine their in-depth knowledge of the body and how it works with specialized hands-on clinical skills to assess, diagnose and treat symptoms of illness, injury or disability,” according to the association.
Viivi Riis, a physiotherapist with more than 50 years’ experience, says it’s all about helping people move the best they can. Recently, she’s been helping her mother who moved into a nursing home to stand up by herself from a seated position in her wheelchair.
“And it’s working so far,” says Riis, former president of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.
“It saves the staff from bringing equipment in and if she can stand up, it means she can pivot and sit on the bed. It’s great for her mental health and to feel more independent.”
Regardless of age or the issue, that’s kind of what physiotherapy is all about.
“It’s how we can help Canadians to be able to move and function meaningfully and as independently as possible in spite of the realities of life,” she says.
It could be a five-year-old with cerebral palsy, a 30-year-old pregnant woman or a senior just trying to navigate daily life despite the many limiting issues that can happen.
“It’s not just trying to get you to run a marathon,” Riis says. “There are sports therapists, and physiotherapists. We were in the ICU during COVID.”
There are more than 26,000 registered physiotherapists working in Canada. While some work in private practices others treat patients in hospitals, rehabilitation centres, assisted-living facilities, workplaces and even schools.
While the hands-on approach is very much part of a physiotherapist’s practice, many have shifted to offering virtual appointments during the pandemic to help their patients.
7 Key Benefits of Physiotherapy
- Eliminating or reducing pain: This can apply to people with arthritis, muscle strain/sprain or conditions like tendonitis who benefit from therapeutic techniques and therapies. Physio plays an important role in treating people with chronic pain
- Help to prepare for or avoid surgery: Although it’s not always possible to avoid surgery, there are many times where physio can assist. It can be a tool prior to surgery, which helps manage a situation or after surgery it can help a patient to rehabilitate while avoiding complications
- Improving strength and coordination: The specific exercises and stretches which are part of physiotherapy help in “cumulative coordination of the body.” That’s why many people suffering from vertigo, for instance, find a solution with a physiotherapist
- Reducing need for medication: Sometimes physio can be an alternative to taking medications for pain relief
- Managing or preventing sports injuries: Whether someone is training for a marathon or wanting to up their golf game — a physiotherapist can help. Regular physiotherapy sessions can increase flexibility, strength, and conditioning
- Optimizing Fitness: This also applies to helping people manage age-related issues that can hamper daily life, like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, neck pain or back pain
- Improving mental health: Who doesn’t feel better when they have less pain and better mobility?
Having Coverage is Key
Seeing a Physiotherapist can get expensive and often coverage is limited for provincial health plans. At GMS, we offer personal health insurance plans, like the ExtendaPlan and OmniPlan which provide enhanced physiotherapy coverage. Our Group Plans also offer coverage for physiotherapy. Be sure to check us out online or visit a broker near you to assist in getting the right coverage for you!