What does a Physiotherapist/Physical Therapist (American term) do? | Element Physio

That is often the VERY first question we often get asked in University when out on practicums. It is often one we repeatedly get asked by other health professionals and spend most of careers trying to answer. The basic description, we get people exercising and moving both safely and more efficiently.

What does a Physiotherapy Assessment/Treatment include at Element Physiotherapy? In our clinic we schedule 60 minutes for assessments and 30-45 minutes for follow up treatments. Along with a detailed history of your “problem”, medical and activity history we want to see you move. When people come in with a complaint of pain, injury, or stiffness our first goal is to look at their movement and posture. How your body holds it self when you are “relaxed” in standing, or sitting. But we know bodies are FAR from stationary so we also want to know if are you moving enough, too much and what is the quality of your movement? Muscle strength and flexibility are also looked at to determine if we need to give you strengthening or stability exercises and/or stretching and mobility (movement) exercises. Also, how can we combine your exercises to get you back to work, sport/activity, life or our of “flare up” of an injury.

NO we don’t just work with athletes. We see clients of all ages, genders and abilities.

NO we don’t just work on your muscles. We look at how your bones and nerves move as well.

NO we don’t do massage. While it may be part of your treatment, we are more likely to work on movements of the bones, combined with muscle and nerve techniques. Plus home exercises. We happily refer on to massage therapists to address a lot of muscle tension.

YES, we are certified to some joint (knee, ankle, elbow, wrist, hand) and spinal manipulations but not everyone needs them. We also do gentle type of manipulation called “mobilizations” that can be just as effective.

YES, we will refer back your family doctor or to another medical professional if needed.

YES, we are taking new clients!

When speaking to our clients and friends we learned there are quite a few misconceptions about what our physiotherapists can treat, who and how to access our care and what conditions we are qualified to treat. You asked and we have explained!

  1. Physiotherapy is primary health care. You can call the clinic directly and make yourself an appointment without a doctor’s referral. We are trained in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions. If physiotherapy is not the appropriate avenue for you, we will let you know. We also work closely with your family doctor.
  2. You do not need an “injury”. Many clients come to us for a problem that seemingly came out of nowhere. They woke up with pain one morning or they have an ache that has gradually been worsening. We love the challenge of getting to the bottom of it!
  3. You do not need to be having pain. We are experts in exercise prescription. We regularly help with exercise programming for clients that would like to increase the strength of a certain area or build flexibility. We are also big believers in pre-habilitation – before a surgery to accelerate your recovery or before the start of your sports season to assist with injury prevention.
  4. We use or hands. Our clinic has a strong belief in manual therapy, education and exercise and we include these in every treatment. Your full session will also be fully one on one with a therapist. We use modalities such a heat/ice, TENS, IFC, ultrasound as needed or when requested by the patient.

So, what can our Element Physiotherapy Team treat, besides injuries? Here are some not so common conditions we treat!

  1. Headaches – Tension-type or posture related headaches can be treated with physiotherapy. There are many joints, muscles, and nerves in the neck, and all of these can contribute to your headache. A physiotherapist knows how to assess these things, and treatment can help to decrease the frequency and pain associated with these headaches. Acupuncture is a great tool to treat headaches.
  2. Dizziness – Many different things can cause dizziness, whiplash, post-concussion, dizziness that seems to come out of the blue. If you are experiencing acute or chronic dizziness, a physiotherapist can help determine what the cause of your dizziness is. We can help with dizziness related to your neck or inner ear and will refer back to your family doctor if the dizziness doesn’t fit into one of these two categories.
  3. Chronic low back pain – Low back pain is very common-in fact, 85% of the population will experience low back pain at some point in their life. However, just because “chronic” or life long back pain is common, it doesn’t mean that you have to “live with it”. We can help determine what is causing your back pain, treat the source of the pain and try to get back to doing what you love. In some cases, chronic back pain may not be completely resolved. We then teach our clients how manage their pain, what activities and movements to avoid and develop a daily home exercise program for them.
  4. Fall prevention – Up to 30% of seniors fall every year, and falls are the most common reason seniors are hospitalized. You can our physiotherapists after a fall has happened, to decrease your risk of future falls, or before a fall happens to determine if you are at risk for falling. We look at your balance, strength and other factors that are often related to falls to determine your risk. Our physiotherapists can help decrease this risk through education on fall prevention and an exercise program. Seeing a physiotherapist has been shown to reduce fractures and hospitalizations related to falls in older adults.
  5. Fatigue and decreased function related to cancer treatment – Fatigue is a common side effect of treatment for cancer, and a decrease in function in daily activities may occur after surgery or radiation. Exercise has been shown to decrease the side effects of cancer treatment, and improve cancer related fatigue.  Our physiotherapists can create a safe, individualized exercise program for you, as well as provide education on managing fatigue and improving daily function. Physiotherapy treatment can also improve loss of movement in joints related to surgery and radiation, and scar management.
  6. Management of diabetes – Diabetes is becoming more and more common every year, with nearly 8% of the population of Manitoba having a diabetes diagnosis. When not well controlled, diabetes can have severe complications. An exercise program initially supervised by our physiotherapist, as well as education on lifestyle changes, has been shown to improve diabetes control. This decreases the individual’s risk of complications like vision loss and amputations.
  7. Loss of function related to neurological and autoimmune conditions (MS, Parkinsons, RA) – There are many progressive neurological and autoimmune diseases that can cause a loss in function, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, and many others. Our physiotherapists can help with mobility and strength at all stages of your disease and teach you alternate strategies to accomplish tasks that have become more difficult. We can also help manage any pain you are experiencing related to these diseases, through massage, modalities, and home-based exercise programs.
  8. Pre-hab before surgery and post surgery rehab – Are you scheduled for a knee or hip replacement? Wait lists for these types of surgeries can be long, which is a great opportunity to see a physiotherapist. Treatment including manual therapy, strength and mobility exercises will make for a more efficient recovery and can help manage pain until your surgery date. After surgery and discharge from the hospital, physiotherapy can build on your exercise program to help you achieve maximal function.
    ***We can also help improve function after other types of surgery, both planned and unplanned such as ACL (knee ligament) repair, rotator cuff surgery, back surgery and abdominal surgery.
  9. Jaw pain – When dealing with jaw pain, physiotherapy isn’t often the first profession that people may think of. However, physiotherapists are trained to assess and treat the jaw joint, the “Temporomandibular Joint” (TMJ). This is where your upper and lower jaws meet. TMJ dysfunction can cause headaches, neck and upper back pain, difficulty opening and closing the mouth, difficulty chewing and popping or clicking. Through massage, stretching and strengthening, we aim to improve the movement of your jaw to decrease both pain and headaches.
  10. Torticollis – Sometimes, babies rest their head off to one side or prefer to turn their head to one side. This is called torticollis and is caused by tight muscles in the baby’s neck. Holding and feeding your baby on the same side can cause this, or it can be a result from position in utero, or from labor and delivery. If your baby has torticollis, our physiotherapist can teach you how to stretch their neck, position, and play with your baby to reduce this muscle tightness.
  11. Delayed motor milestone achievement in children –Some children have a hard time learning new movements-things like rolling over, crawling, and walking. A physiotherapist can teach you how to make it easier for your child to achieve these milestones, screen for an underlying medical cause and refer you on to a physician or pediatrician as necessary. Some cases may also require referral to the Children’s Therapy Team at the hospital.