When you suffer an injury and are in serious pain, where do you go? Does Doctor Google come calling? Perhaps YouTube? Do you seek advice from a friend? Or do you seek out a professional?
Only a professional can provide the assessment you need when in pain. A huge mistake people make is listening to friends or family. Sure, they may have had similar experiences, but they may be giving you wrong advice. There are plenty of horror stories of people being given dodgy advice on how to “crack” their back or neck. Even advice on how to stretch or exercise may not suit you. Hint: you should never try to “crack” anything if you haven’t done it naturally. (Sometimes when you stretch you may hear a crack in your back or neck. That is fine. If you are trying to force it to happen then it is not safe.)
Amateur advice can only make things worse. Relying too much on Dr Google or YouTube may also produce misdiagnosis and prolong your injury.
But why see a physio? Physiotherapy uses physical treatments to treat injury or pain, or even to prevent disease or deformity, and a host of other physical problems. It plays a major role in both treatment and prevention. Physiotherapists may specialise in heart and lungs, brain, or musculoskeletal issues. Sports physiotherapists such as myself are have a special interest in the musculoskeletal physiotherapy category.
Physiotherapy is hands on. It’s very difficult to perform a diagnosis remotely. As we use physical methods, physios can only make a diagnosis by seeing you in person and employing several techniques. Because it is hands on, and because everybody is different, experience counts. As technology develops the opportunity of remote diagnosis may be on the horizon. But that is still a while away.
A physiotherapist will quickly work out whether they can help or not. They play an important role in referring patients to other medical professionals, if it’s something more complex. Unfortunately delaying seeing a physiotherapist often delays recovery, and in some cases results in prolonged pain.
There are many reasons why people need physios. But there are four key reasons why physios are indispensable:
- Diagnosis can be extremely tricky and requires considerable knowledge and experience. Consider that many instances of pain actually originate elsewhere in the body – this is known as “referred pain” (for example when a painful shoulder is actually the result of a lower back injury). Physiotherapists not only provide a diagnosis, they will also give you a prognosis of how long the recovery should take.
- Treatmentof pain or injury will vary according to the problem and the individual, but a physiotherapist will be able to find treatments which improve recovery quickly. In fact, I would go as far as saying that you should see a difference in just three sessions or less. If there is no improvement at all, I would encourage a second opinion. If you have chronic pain it may take longer than three sessions, but you need to see a plan in place for improvement.
- Preventionis crucial and an important part of a physio’s role. There is a perception that physios just treat injury, but prevention is arguably where we make the most difference. There are many people who have been able to keep enjoying the sports they love, whether it be golf, tennis, swimming, surfing or lawn bowls, because they work at prevention in conjunction with a physio. The physio will work out where your trouble spots are and put a program in place, which is individual and should dramatically cut down the risk of injury.
- Ongoing conditioning/tune ups– physios can monitor your fitness and conditioning and provide the regular “tune-ups” that your body needs to maintain health and fitness. This helps you to maintain optimum fitness. Having a skilled practitioner who you trust plays a positive role in your wellbeing – as we know there are proven links between maintaining a healthy body and a healthy mind.