Kelowna physiotherapist Cathy Vigar, with Lifemark Health Group.

5 common physiotherapy questions answered

Professionals keep people moving well through injury and chronic conditions

Growing up playing many sports, occasional injuries – and physiotherapy – came with the territory, says Cathy Vigar. But it was after her grandfather suffered a stroke and received remarkable treatment from his physiotherapist that she fully understood the profession’s scope.

“It’s quite all-encompassing. I treat a many families – patients from age 6 to 96. I’ll see mom, dad and the kids or mom and grandpa,” reflects the Kelowna physiotherapist with LifeMark Health Group.

1. What can you expect? Along with a full history, your initial physiotherapy visit will likely include gait and posture analysis and range of motion testing. Recognizing body components are intricately interconnected, the problem area will be reviewed in the context of the whole body. Vigar suggests patients take time before that first visit to reflect on their health and injury history, as often old issues can crop up later, or manifest in other areas. “The body is very good at compensating and masking,” she says. “That’s why it’s important for us to look at the body as a system.” Because physiotherapists are considered primary care, a doctor’s referral isn’t required, but access to certain tests can be helpful.

2. When should you go? If you’ve had a fall or more serious accident, seeing your physiotherapist quickly is recommended. “Sometimes that early intervention can prevent the need for longer treatment,” Vigar says. If you’ve had a twist or a sprain and you’re waiting to see if it will clear up on its own, seven to 10 days is the typical window. Beyond that, if the pain persists, a visit is in order.

3. What does treatment look like? Like most medical professionals, physiotherapists have a variety of possible treatments at hand, and will often call upon several for a customized treatment plan. In addition to manual therapy to work the fascia system, options include modalities such as ultrasound and electrotherapy, home exercises, trigger point balls, and – more and more – acupuncture as a way to increase blood flow to the tissue, Vigar says.

4. Who can benefit? Whether the result of a recent injury, a flare-up from an old injury, or a chronic condition like arthritis or MS, physiotherapy can often help. And as Baby Boomers continue or increase their activity level through retirement, older patients are turning to physiotherapy more and more. The goal is to keep people moving comfortably to help them stay active – helping prevent other issues like heart disease and diabetes down the road.

5. What’s the training? In addition to a four-year undergraduate degree, physiotherapists undertake a two-year, two-month masters program plus six clinical placements for hands-on learning. “We really focus on the musculoskeletal system and we’re always learning more – there’s a big focus on evidence-based practice and undertaking more research all the time.”

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Lifemark Health Group provides diversified services across Canada, with more than 20 years of experience providing rehabilitation, medical assessments, seniors wellness and sport medicine programs.

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