With a growing ageing population and more Singaporeans gaining interest in physical activities, we are seeing more people coming into our clinic to seek treatment for their ailments and injuries. In spite of this, we still hear some misconceptions about what physiotherapists do. So, we are taking this chance to clarify the 5 most common misconceptions people have about physiotherapists.
1. “Physiotherapists just do massages”
Physiotherapists do perform ‘massage’ during the treatment session but that is just a part of the whole treatment process. The forms of massage are specifically known as soft tissue release or deep tissue massage. The difference between Physiotherapists and masseuses is that we diagnose, assess and then put all the information we gathered through a clinical thought process to determine the cause of pain. If muscle tightness is found to be one of the causes, Physiotherapists will address it by executing soft tissue releases. The ‘massage’ usually does not take up the entire treatment process. A good Physiotherapist will eventually work together with the patient to address other issues leading to the tightness, for example, joint stiffness, muscle imbalance or weakness in other muscles.
2. Physiotherapists just teach exercises and send patients home to do them
Customised exercise prescription is definitely a skill that separates Physiotherapists from other professions. In fact, Physiotherapists are the only people you can trust when it comes to exercises when you are having an injury. They are rigorously trained in areas of exercise rehabilitation which take into account medical conditions and musculoskeletal (bones, muscles and joints) injuries when designing an exercise programme for the patients. Good Physiotherapists are able to customise exercises to help improve the patients’ conditions and also help to monitor if they are doing them correctly. A fruitful physiotherapy session will always involve the Physiotherapist going through the exercises thoroughly with patients before sending them home with an exercise programme.
3. You can only see a Physiotherapist after seeing a doctor
Physiotherapists are trained to be first line practitioners. This means they are qualified to see the patient directly if the patient walks in without any referrals. That being said, Physiotherapists can’t help with all conditions, just like we can’t expect a doctor to know how to fix a car engine. However, good Physiotherapists will be able to identify problems that require further medical attention and refer them to seek appropriate and accurate medical attention. Physiotherapists are trained to ensure patients who can benefit from early physiotherapy treatment can receive intervention faster without going through a long referral process.
4. Physiotherapists don’t treat spine problems
Physiotherapy is one of the most effective conservative treatment for spine issues and pain. This is backed up by extensive and on-going medical research. In fact, physiotherapy treatments fit seamlessly with orthodox mainstream medical interventions and is recognised medically to be one of the safest ways to treat spine problems. Good Physiotherapists do not just treat the scans patients went through. They will be able to take into account the patients’ functional issues, activity levels and psychological well-being to prescribe a holistic and effective approach to a patient’s spine problem. At the end of the day, Physiotherapists are health advocates who promote active lifestyles and encourage patients to take a proactive approach to manage their condition.
5. Physiotherapy treatments are always painful
Quality Physiotherapists will always seek to reduce pain and discomfort within each session even if patients have been suffering from pain for a long time. The fact is patients may feel some soreness sometimes after a session of physiotherapy which involves manual therapy and soft tissue work. This is normal and the soreness is expected to subside within 48-72 hours, after which patients will usually report an improvement in function or movement or further reduction in pain from their primary condition.