If you have had surgery on say an ankle or knee or had an injury, you are probably familiar with rehabilitative care that follows. Once the doctor treats you, then you need to heal.
Part of the process of healing often involves seeing a physiotherapist or physical therapist. Is physiotherapy the same as physical therapy?
What you need is help in your recovery process, to build strength, range of motion, and mobility. Will it be physiotherapy or physical therapy that does the trick for you?
Either way, getting the needed therapy to heal from injury is what you need and want.
Read on to learn about physiotherapy and physical therapy, are they the same thing?
Is Physiotherapy the Same as Physical Therapy?
As you are healing from injury, your doctor may suggest either physiotherapy or physical therapy. Is there a difference?
The truth is the term physiotherapy and physical therapy are used almost synonymously. Most people consider them virtually the same thing. Doctors are likely to use the terms interchangeably.
In the United States, most medical professionals will use the term physical therapy. In Australia, Canada, Ireland, the U.K, and other parts of Europe, you are more likely to hear the term physiotherapy.
Slight Distinctions Between Physiotherapy and Physical Therapy
Aside from the location, if you looked hard there might be a few slight distinctions. Some suggest that physiotherapy will focus more on manual therapies done by hand. This would include things like stretching, soft tissue release, joint mobilizations, and fascial release.
While physical therapy is more exercise based. So, physical therapy is working to strengthen muscles, improve balance, and sharpen coordination.
A few suggest that a physiotherapist might treat an injury while a physical therapist will work with more chronic conditions.
In some places, it’s more common to refer to a physiotherapist in the hospital setting and a physical therapist in a private practice setting.
Actually, both a physiotherapist and physical therapist do all of these things as part of their normal treatment course, which is why it’s pretty common to use the terms interchangeably.
Qualifications for Physiotherapist and Physical Therapist
A physiotherapist/physical therapist requires an advanced degree. Therapists first need a supporting undergraduate degree to prepare them for the post-graduate work.
Then they must enter into physiotherapy school and get a master’s degree. The course work requires a combination of lectures, labs, and clinical work to develop both knowledge and skill with patient care.
Physiotherapists must also get 1,000 hours of clinical hours. Liken this to when a doctor does a residency. It allows the therapist to really develop skills under the careful supervision of a physiotherapist who is already practicing.
Physiotherapists must register in the province they work in and they also need to pass a board certification test.
Types of Therapy
When you go to a physiotherapist or physical therapist there are three areas of treatment they might use in treating you. Let’s take a closer look at those treatment options.
Manual therapy, as the name suggests includes the use of the hands for treatment. These skilled hand movements are used precisely to achieve any number of goals including:
- Improve tissue extensibility
- Increase the range of motion of the joint complex
- Mobilize or manipulate soft tissues
- Mobilize or manipulate joints
- Induce relaxation
- Change muscle function
- Modulate pain
- Reduce soft tissue swelling
- Inflammation or movement restriction
With this specific manual therapy, the physiotherapist must have extensive knowledge of all joints, bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and soft tissues in the body to use them to help in the healing process.
Don’t get worried that suddenly you’ll be doing hardcore weightlifting, aerobics or be out running a marathon.
But physiotherapists will use exercise to help strengthen and build muscle as part of the recovery process.
They might use exercise equipment like weight machines to help strengthen your body. The physiotherapist can target muscle groups to strengthen through your therapy sessions.
Weak muscles mean there is a higher risk for another injury. There are many benefits to using exercise as part of the therapy. These include:
- Improved muscle strength
- Decrease energy expenditure because muscles are stronger
- Reduced risk of injury
- Improve function
- Improve the quality of movement
As muscle strength improves so does the chances of strengthening the joints and soft tissues all around the injured area.
Exercise programs might include exercises that work against gravity, a resistance band, or weight. Physiotherapists might also use water therapy as a source of gentle resistance in the exercise regimen.
Electrotherapy is another course of therapy used for patients by the physiotherapist. The electrotherapy uses targeted and controlled electrical stimulation on an injury.
There are many benefits to electrotherapy. These include:
- Release endorphins to naturally decrease pain at and around the injury
- Stimulate muscle tissue and blood flow to the injured area
- Improve circulation and stimulate healing
- Stimulate cells that reduce inflammation
- Stimulate cells that promote collagen production
Electrotherapy is highly effective in helping to stimulate soft tissues which help with both pain management and swelling around an injury.
Physiotherapy to Heal
Is physiotherapy the same as physical therapy? Most in the medical community would call them virtually the same thing and use the two terms interchangeably.
Both physiotherapists and physical therapists use a variety of treatment techniques to help in the healing process. They will use the expertise and training to develop a treatment program.
Often the treatment involves a combination of different to treatments to help the patient heal and improve.
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