8 September is World Physiotherapy Day!

The day is an opportunity for physical therapists from all over the world to raise awareness about the crucial contribution the profession makes in keeping people well, mobile and independent. This year the theme for the day is Chronic Pain, a significant burden on global health with low back pain causing more disability than any other condition.

Today there are more than 50,000 registered physiotherapists in the UK. They play a crucial role in keeping the nation on its feet, getting people up and about or back to work after an injury or illness, and preventing them getting injured in the first place. But somehow their voice is not being heard.

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Physiotherapy as a profession and as a service, has so much to offer, yet is so under-utilized by the system. We need to think differently. We need to think about keeping people out of hospital and, if not, about getting them through the system quicker.

If physiotherapy can make its voice heard, it has a good story to tell. One in five people turning up at hospital A&E departments, has a musculo-skeletal problem: putting a physiotherapist to work there, research suggests, can prevent unnecessary admissions and cut costs by as much as 60%. It is a similar story for GP surgeries.

But while those of us in the industry take great pride in our profession, every person or prospective patient might wonder what miracles physical therapy can do for you.

1. Physical therapy does not need prescription.

Most states allow an individual to receive physical therapy services without a direct referral from a physician.  Direct access to physical therapy has been documented to be more efficient, getting patients better more quickly. The rules vary from state to state, and you should contact your local physical therapy provider for more information.

2. Physical therapy offers similar long-term outcomes to those of surgical intervention.

When looking at the treatment of spinal stenosis, the outcomes of conservative physical therapy treatment are the same as those of invasive surgery. This statement correlates back to No. 1 above, in which long-term patient healthcare costs can be greatly reduced.

3. Physical therapy provides functional rehabilitation.

Physical therapy’s goal is to return the patient to his or her previous level of function. We provide a structured-based approach to return the patient quickly and safely back to the activities they enjoyed prior to injury.

4. Physical therapy emphasizes motor control or muscle coordination

Often pain is not because of a lack of strength. But during the evaluation of a functional task, we are able to analyze the mechanics and determine whether there is a motor control dysfunction. Muscle imbalances occur when one muscle overpowers another; this can lead to altered stresses on joints, muscles, tendons or ligaments, causing pain. A physical therapist must correct the faulty movement patterns and poor motor control in order to relieve the pain.

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