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Chapter 1: Physiotherapy – An Overview

Chapter 2: How to Become a Physiotherapist

Chapter 3: Step In the Real World of Physiotherapy

Chapter 1: Physiotherapy – An Overview

According to the definition by the Australian Physiotherapy Association,

“Physiotherapy is a healthcare profession that assesses, diagnoses, treats, and works to prevent disease and disability through physical means. Physiotherapists are experts in movement and function who work in partnership with their patients, assisting them to overcome movement disorders, which may have been present from birth, acquired through accident or injury, or are the result of ageing or life-changing events”

Physiotherapy is a British term for physical therapy, abbreviated as PT. Both of these terms will be used interchangeably in this book. The meaning and all other basic aspects remains the same.

Elaborating the above definition, Physiotherapy, or physical therapy is a branch of clinical health science that deals with bodily pain and movement disorders. It does so by employing several physical and natural procedures such as massage, exercise and stretching etcetera.

But this is just a basic definition.  Physical therapy is much more vast and extensive than this. It contains several branches and specializations.

It requires lots of determination, hard work and patience to become a physical therapist. However, the rewards are also fabulous and worth all the efforts.

Physiotherapy is a highly paid and respected profession. Moreover, the fact that physical therapists help other people in improving their lifestyle and get rid of bodily pains makes it a service to humanity. The inner satisfaction that you get after being a physiotherapist complements the high salary and respect that one gets in this profession.

The study of physiotherapy includes study of subjects that will help the person develop skills and patience required to diagnose, treat, prevent, rehabilitate and educate the patients with physical disabilities. It primarily includes study of anatomy, physiology and neuroscience.

Moreover, it is a compulsory requirement for physical therapists to get registered by law. The licensure and registration requirements vary across different states and nations and are explained in detail later on in this book.

This field of medicine requires you to work in both, hospitals and community healthcare systems.

Well, this was just a brief summary of the underlying profession. Let’s move forward and explore as to what actually is the role and job description of a physiotherapist.

What Physiotherapists Do?

Before we move on to how you can become a physical therapist, let’s see what actually will you be required to do once you become a physiotherapist. Like every other profession, this one has certain demands that you need to fulfill.

Physical therapist, also known as ‘movement specialists’ analyze and treat a number of bodily ailments that affects the normal movements of the body. For example, orthopedists mostly suggest regular physical therapy to patients having osteoarthritis, back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, spinal pain, spinal stenosis, Parkinson’s disease and several other long term health problems.

The role of physical therapists differs according to their experience, position, specialization and most importantly the individual needs of the patients. However there are common functions that fall under the job description of every physiotherapist.

PTs all over the world are expected to know and perform the following tasks apart from their specialized job description.

– Assess the condition of the patient, diagnose and recommend appropriate treatment.

– Treat the patient using a range of techniques according to his/her condition. Some of the common physiotherapy techniques include joint manipulation, soft tissue mobilization, acupuncture, hydrotherapy and several other exercise programs

– PTs are required to know the appropriate and safe usage of treatment devices like ultrasound, electrotherapy, ice and heat packs.

– Train the patients on how to use movement aid devices such as walking frames, calipers, splints, crutches and wheelchairs.

– Teach patients exercises that they can perform on their own.

– Educate them on the prevention of bodily ailments and injuries.

– Develop an appropriate fitness program with the patient to prevent the loss of mobility

– Develop, implement and promote fitness and wellness programs for the community

And most importantly, keep the patient motivated and optimistic toward life.

Scope of Work

As already said, the scope of physiotherapy is not limited to the above mentioned tasks. Physical therapists are experts in the assessment and treatment of neuromuscular, cardiothoracic and musculoskeletal problems. These are ailments that affect the physical functionality and ability of individuals to move the way they want.

These problems can occur at any stage of life. This implies that physical therapy is not just for one gender or age group. From infants to old age retired people, physiotherapy has scope and importance in every stage of life.

Here are some of the health issues pertaining to different age groups that require physiotherapy treatment.

Infancy: Baby Torticollis

Torticollis refers to the retraction of the sternocleidomastoid muscle which is a very common issue in new born babies. It makes it difficult for them to move their head from one side to other. Since a newly born baby’s skull is very soft, flexible and susceptible to alterations, sleeping on one side leads to a flattened head, called positional plagiocephaly in medical terms.

Torticollis normally happens because of the position taken by the infants in their last few weeks in uterus. Not every time, but Torticollis often leads to permanent deformity of the skull.  This is where physiotherapy comes in the scene.

Physical therapists use soft tissue message and several other exercises to loosen the muscles in the baby’s neck. They teach the baby to turn their head to put equal pressure on both sides of the skull.

Childhood: Neuromotor Delay

A child taking too long to sit, crawl or walk is an example of neuromotor delay. Though there is not any specific time as to when the child should start performing these activities. However, there is a standard range of weeks for these functions. For example, a 2 year old child unable to walk unaided is not normal. Pediatric therapists are experts in assessing and treating such issues.

Teenage: Bone Fracture in Arms or Legs

Now this is something very common among teenagers. They are very susceptible to bone fractures. While the fractures are treated by orthopedists, physical therapists ensure that the affected bone is healed and strengthened. They make the kids do exercises that will bring back the mobility, flexibility and strength in the fractured part.

Youngsters: Sprains and Sports Injuries

Sprain in the ankle during the dance class, while playing football or running across the stairs to catch the train are some of the common happenings in a youngster’s life which make them pay frequent visits to the physical therapists.

Physiotherapists play a very important role in the life of youngsters. This age group is very active and unwilling to sit at home. Moreover, they can’t afford to miss their school and other important activities.

It puts on extra effort on the physical therapists to make sure that they return to their normal routine in the shortest possible time. This also implies that physical therapists develop a short fitness program that they can follow regularly in their busy life to minimize the reoccurrence of the injury.

Pregnant Women: Back Pain

Back pain is a common characteristic of pregnancy. This is due to the fact that the growing weight of the baby induces change in the bodily posture. The pregnancy hormones loosen the ligaments causing the joints in the back to move more than usual. This in turn weakens the joint support and causes low back pain.

Physical therapists are experts in dealing with pregnancy back pains. They train the pregnant women several exercises that strengthen their joints and reduce the back pain.

Mid life: Heart Diseases

Heart diseases can be caused by a large number of factors, some of which can be addressed by physiotherapy. It is part of a physiotherapist’s job to develop exercise programs for managing weight, cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Cardiac rehabilitation program and counseling on smoking cessation also falls under the head of physiotherapy.

Old Age: Osteoporosis

Old age brings with it quite a number of ailments, osteoporosis being one of them. It is very common among the elderly. It is a condition where the bones get brittle and weak, which in turn affects the structure of bones and bodily posture. Stooped back is a sign of osteoporosis.

Physiotherapy is the best way to reduce the pain associated with osteoporosis. In such cases, a physical therapist develops a comprehensive treatment program including bone strengthening exercises, diet plan, aerobics and massages.

Summing up this section, physiotherapy is not a monotonous, age specific or gender specific job, neither is it limited to a few diseases. It has scope in all age groups, professions, genders and aspects of life.

Work Environment

Now that you know the variety of work that you will be doing after becoming a physical therapist, here is the next surprise for you. The working conditions will also be equally diverse.

As indicated in the previous section, physiotherapy has a vast range of applications. This field of medical science extends from acute care to prevention of immobility, health care, training and awareness, fitness programs, chronic disease management and occupational health.

The vast scope of physiotherapy implies a diverse variety of working conditions for the physiotherapists that depends upon the facilities of the health care and needs of the individual patients.

For example, children especially those with learning difficulties require a different approach and treatment. Rehabilitation cannot always be done in a hospital.

Being a physical therapist, you might have your own office or working desk, but your clinic or hospital is not the only place where you are going to perform treatments. Some treatments would require you to visit the patient’s place or fitness center, sports club or any other communal rehabilitation center.

The varying working conditions coupled with the diverse set of responsibilities keep this job interesting.

How Much Do Physiotherapists Earn?

Every state and healthcare facility has a different pay package for physiotherapists. The salary depends upon several factors such as qualifications, experience, successful cases etcetera. However, the average salary of physical therapists is higher than the average income of an individual.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,

– On average a physical therapist earn $72,790 per year

– Majority of the PTs earn between $60,300 and $85,540 annually

– Only 10 percent of Physical Therapists earn less than $50,350 per year.

– Approximately 10% of PTs earn more than $104,350 per year.

PTs that are employed in nursing care units, home health care facilities and private clinics earn more than the average salary of a physical therapist.

According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), at the moment there are more the 184,000 physical therapists licensed under the US law. The median salary quoted by APTA is $80,000 per year which is slightly higher than the one quoted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Besides the US, physiotherapists are highly paid in the UK as well.

– A recently qualified physiotherapist can expect to earn £21,176 – £27,625 per year in the National Health Service (NHS).

– Specialist physiotherapists earn between £25,528 – £34,189.

– Advanced physiotherapists earn between £30,460 – £40,157

Australia is very generous when it comes to the salary of physiotherapists.

– The average starting salary of a physiotherapist in Australia is AU$ 50,500 on an annual basis.

– The average salary of physiotherapists in Australia is AU$ 77,002 per year.

– Majority of the physiotherapists in Australia earn between AU$ 47,949 – AU$ 88,111.

– The hourly pay of physiotherapists starts from AU$ 21.58 and can go as high as AU$ 51, depending upon the years of experience.

Job Outlook

While salary is definitely an important factor to consider when thinking over the possible career choices, even more important is the job outlook.

We live in an uncertain economy. You never know what will be the price of chicken and bread after 10 years, and will your current salary be enough to support that. Salary is important for your present and job outlook is essential for your future.

Exploring an occupation according to its job outlook is indeed a feasible and safe option. It is a forecast of what an employment will be like in future. Taking a note of job outlook is helpful as it will help you predict your chances of getting a good, lucrative job in the future.

Physiotherapy has a pretty bright future and a strong job outlook. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of physical therapy is growing at an exceptionally high rate. It is estimated that by 2018, the field would have grown by 30%. This is even indicated by the fact that many insurance companies these days are covering physical therapy in the medical insurance.

And same is the story of other nations. The physiotherapy job industry in Australia has grown at an average rate of 20.2% over the past five years and is expected to grow even more in the next 5 years.

It is vital to keep up with the job outlook forecasts, especially if you are looking forward to a lucrative career as a physiotherapist. In order to estimate job outlook, look up to the economists of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections. They compare and project the change in employment settings usually over a period of ten years. The projection of change in an occupation is described by saying it will:

– Grow faster than the average occupations

– Grow at a similar pace as average occupations

– Grow at a much faster pace than average occupations

– Have very insignificant change

– Have no change at all

– Is moderately or slowly declining

– Declining rapidly

You may rely on the economists with their forecasted change in an occupation’s change because in addition to other important factors, they also compare the number of job openings with the number of job seekers to estimate the prospects of a particular occupation.

Fortunately, the physiotherapist career you are choosing for yourself has a very good job outlook with reference to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to them, the employment in this field will grow faster than the average occupation over the period of ten years.

The decision has been taken considering several impactful factors together with the statistics and growth rate of this particular field, showing prospects the green signal to take up this lucrative career opportunity.

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