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Does Physiotherapy Work?

Physiotherapy is effective in treating a wide range of conditions and there is increasing evidence to support this claim. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has produced a very useful summary of this evidence in the form of fact sheets. These can be found on the attached pages of this site.

The term Physiotherapy, as a profession has increasingly become synonymous with an adjective and thus we hear ‘patients receiving Physiotherapy’, ‘I have been giving Physio to my child for years’ and ‘the injured player is receiving physio’. This description is not by all means exhaustive but demonstrates public confusion as to what Physiotherapy really is.

Physiotherapy is a profession which is multifaceted. In order to get the very best out of it, it is necessary to ensure that you consult the right Physiotherapist. Physiotherapists are experts in human movement and strive to restore abnormal movement to as near as possible to what it was before the start of the problem. Take time to think about your symptoms before you see a Physiotherapist and jot down any information which you feel you may forget to give during a consultation.

Fragility Fractures and Falls


Cardiac Rehab

Multiple Sclerosis

Critical Care

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Musculoskeletal Disorders

Urinary Incontinence

Dementia Care

Occupational Health

Cancer Survivorship



12 Golden rules for seeing a Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist

Here are 12 golden rules that will help you get the best help from a Physiotherapist during a consultation;

•  Do not compare your problem with someone else's problem, no matter how tempting it may be. No two people have the exact same problem. We as human beings recognise pain. Physiotherapists are skilled in understanding the BEHAVIOUR of that pain. This is more important to the clinician.

•  Do not make assumptions. Every bit of information may be relevant to the success of your treatment. Do not hold anything back. Let your Physiotherapist make a judgement based upon their expertise as to what your problem is.

•  Do not expect a diagnosis. Physiotherapists make clinical diagnoses based upon your symptom behaviour. Putting a name on something is largely irrelevant. It is the change in movement behaviour that is most important. Remember, the Physiotherapist is an expert in human movement.

•  Do not get upset by the questions that the Physiotherapist may ask. These questions may appear to be superfluous to the problem or in some cases irrelevant however, you must trust your Physiotherapist. The information allows the Physiotherapist to understand your problem and devise a method to help you manage it. The information will remain confidential according to the terms of the Data Protection Act of 1998 and any subsequent amendments to that Act.

•  Do not do any research on the internet BEFORE you see your Physiotherapist. It is highly likely that you will research the wrong diagnosis. Physiotherapists are able to explain what the problem may be and give you the appropriate search term that will fit the true definition of your problem. The advantage of this is that you will be able to play your part in managing your problem in tandem with the active treatment provided by your Physiotherapist. Remember you are with the Physiotherapist in all probability for a maximum of 2 hours in a week! The rest of the time you will need to do your bit.

•  Do not quote, repeat or translate anything another professional/person has said to you about your problem before the Physiotherapist asks you. You will get more joy and better results if the Physiotherapist is allowed to use their vast knowledge in coming to their own conclusion without prejudice. It is therefore less likely that the wrong clinical diagnosis will be made. After all, if anybody knew better, why is it necessary to see a Physiotherapist in the first place?

•  Do not expect the Physiotherapist to do all the work. After treatment you will be given a home exercise programme. Compliance is crucial, it is no good expecting results if you do not maintain improvements achieved during actual treatment.

•  Do not share, modify or add to the exercise routine that has been prescribed for you. There is always a 'method in the madness'. If you are unsure about the routine ask your Physiotherapist first before you do anything with them.

•  Do not expect a Physiotherapist to help you build up your muscles. Physiotherapists restore proper muscle function i.e initiate a contraction, be able to hold a contraction and relax properly after a contraction. Physiotherapists also look to restore and/or improve the sequence of muscle activity to initiate safe and proper movement, in the trade this goes under the guise of a number of expressions such as muscle balance, muscle coordination or muscle activation sequence. All exercises are aimed at doing one or the other BUT they do not increase bulk. There are people out there whose speciality it is to bulk up muscle; they are Personal trainers!

•  Do not have unrealistic expectations. Physiotherapy is not the panacea for everything explainable and the unexplained. Your Physiotherapist will discuss the most realistic and mutual objectives that can be achieved. You should be given reasons for not being able to venture past that goal. Respect that decision and know that it was made with the best professional intentions. Waiting lists are unacceptably long because of unrealistic expectations of patients and practitioners.

•  Do not absolve or delegate responsibility for the problem you are being treated for. There is always a cause to an effect and in a lot of cases problems result from poor posture. Be self critical of your posture and appraise what you do. Non-compliance and its consequences is YOUR FAULT!

•  Do not assume that the Physiotherapist cannot tell if you are being either economical with the truth or over elaborate with the description of your symptoms. Physiotherapists are skilled at using cross reference questioning to understand what your problem is; and if they are anything like myself....I will tell you if I do not think that the symptoms match the presentation of the condition. I particularly refer to whiplash and other compensation cases. The human body never lies and I trust neither do you!!