Physiotherapy, scientific physical procedures used in the treatment of patients with a disability, disease, or injury to achieve and maintain functional rehabilitation and to prevent malfunction or deformity.
Treatments are designed to minimize residual physical disability, to hasten convalescence, and to contribute to the patient's comfort and well-being. Physiotherapy is prescribed for patients with varied orthopaedic conditions, such as backache, as well as for neurological, vascular, and respiratory conditions, any of which may be the result of congenital malfunction, disability acquired through disease or trauma, such as accidents or sport injuries, or inherited dysfunction. Physiotherapists are employed in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, some family doctor practices, and in private practice. In addition to direct patient care, physiotherapists are involved in other areas, including consultation, teaching, and research.
TYPES OF TREATMENT
Among the diagnostic tests used by the physiotherapist are manually testing muscles, electrical testing, perceptual and sensory testing, and measurement of the range of motion of joints. Functional activity testing is important in ascertaining patients' capabilities for performing the necessary tasks of caring for themselves.
In treating a patient, the physiotherapist may employ heat treatments; massage; manipulation; ultrasound, which is ultrasonic waves that produce heat internally; and diathermy (application of electric current to generate heat in body tissues).
One of the most important tasks of the physiotherapist is remedial exercise in various forms. This is used to increase strength and endurance, to improve coordination, to improve functional movement for activities of daily living, and to increase and maintain range of motion. Gait (walking) training is practised with the assistance of canes, crutches, walkers, braces, and artificial limbs. Physiotherapists also use bandaging, strapping, and application and removal of splints and casts, and they instruct patients and their relatives in techniques of exercise and the use of prosthetic devices, such as artificial limbs, and orthotic, or bracing, devices.
Most of the physical agents employed in modern physiotherapy were used in ancient times. Early Greek and Roman writings refer to the beneficial effects of sun and water, and both exercise and massage were used by the ancient Chinese, Persians, Egyptians, and Greeks.
The field of physiotherapy in modern times was established in Great Britain in the latter part of the 19th century. In the United States, physiotherapists treated thousands of patients in 1916 when a severe epidemic of poliomyelitis struck New York and New England.
After World War II physiotherapy became more widely used in the care of patients. Among the reasons for the great increase in demand for physiotherapy services were the impressive results obtained in treating those injured in battle and industry during World War II; the increase in chronic disability resulting from the larger number of older people in the population; and, more recently, the increase in sports-related injuries.