Orthopaedic Physical Therapy utilises the basic sciences of anatomy, physiology and biomechanics as background theory in the assessment and management of patients. This involves not only ‘manipulation’, but also manual assessment and treatment techniques, specific therapeutic exercise, electrotherapy, and advice on posture and movement disorders. Orthopaedic Physical Therapy is used to treat musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and injuries, including arthritis, tendonitis, sprains, and more.
Physiotherapy helps with post-surgery recovery by reducing pain and improving mobility and strength through stretching and strengthening exercises. It improves circulation through techniques such as manual therapy and ultrasound and helps manage scarring through exercise and techniques to reduce scar tissue. Physiotherapy should only be started after clearance from a surgeon and can greatly improve the recovery process, but the extent and timeline of recovery will depend on the individual and the type of surgery.
Physiotherapy and rehabilitation are related but different healthcare fields. Physiotherapy is a specific aspect of rehabilitation focused on diagnosing, managing, and preventing physical impairments, disabilities, and pain through exercise, manual therapy, and modalities. Rehabilitation, on the other hand, is a broader term that encompasses restoring function and independence to a person affected by injury, illness, or disability and may involve multiple healthcare professionals.
Physiotherapy plays a key role in chronic pain management by using exercise, manual therapy, pain education and self-management, and assistive devices. Physiotherapists work to improve physical function, reduce pain, and enhance the quality of life through these evidence-based interventions.
The timeline for improvement in physiotherapy varies and can depend on several factors such as the condition, severity, frequency, consistency of therapy, and overall health. Typically, some improvement can be seen in a few weeks to a few months, with more significant improvements potentially taking several months to a year or more. Gradual improvement is common, and temporary worsening or plateauing of symptoms can occur. A personalized timeline can be discussed with a physiotherapist.
You should visit a physiotherapist if your pain is mechanical. Also, other reasons you may choose to attend a physical therapy session include when the pain is not going away, the pain has severely affected movement, or it prevents you from sporting activities. Any of these reasons show that it is time to see a physiotherapist.
In Alberta, physiotherapists are considered primary care providers, so you can see a private one without requiring your doctor’s referral.
However, your physician will likely refer you to a physiotherapist for post-surgery recovery or an extended medical issue needing specialized attention. It is common for physiotherapists to collaborate with other healthcare professionals such as a doctor, occupational therapists and massage therapists to develop an individualized treatment plan for you.
In addition, if your private health insurance covers physiotherapy, you may need to provide a doctor’s referral for the insurer to cover the cost of your treatment.