If you’ve ever been laid up in bed because of a broken leg, or with an arm in a cast, you’ll know how limp that limb feels when it is finally out of bandages. That’s because the muscles in that particular part of the body have not been used for so long that they’ve ‘forgotten’ how to function. They need to be re-taught their work, and this is where physiotherapy comes in.
Physiotherapy is that branch of medicine, which makes use of physical agents or exercises to treat a disease or an injury. It is also called physical therapy.
Doctors who specialise in this branch of rehabilitation medicine are called physiotherapists or physical therapists.
Interestingly, physiotherapy is helpful in almost every branch of medicine. Patients with paralysis, or muscle weakness caused by poliomyelitis and multiple sclerosis, with a heart or lung problem, or those recovering from broken bones, all need the help of a physiotherapist to get back on their feet.
While the most basic and critical tool of all physiotherapists are their hands, they do use an array of devices too. Some devices heat parts of the body, since heat tends to lessen pain and improve blood circulation. Radiant heat lamps are used for warming up the body to reduce pain in the backbone.
Electric heating pads, diathermy, hydrotherapy (water treatment) and special baths are used to apply heat to the diseased or damaged parts of the body.
Cooling too is critical. Soon after certain injuries, such as sprains, ice packs are applied to reduce pain and swe1ling. Ultraviolet lamps are used to kill certain germs. Ultrasonic waves are used to treat inflammatory conditions of muscles and joints.
Exercise is the most important part of physiotherapy. In fact, most people believe physiotherapy is only concerned with different kinds of physical exercise. However, physiotherapists use a variety of equipment such as pulleys, weights, parallel oars, stationary bicycles and dumb-bells.
Disabled people benefit greatly from the services of a physiotherapist. With the help of splints, braces, crutches and wheel chairs, physiotherapists help them to move around on their own and manage their daily tasks themselves.
This is one of the reasons we see physiotherapists working in different places – in clinics, hospitals and schools for the handicapped.