How a physiotherapist can help & what to expect with treatment
May is National Physiotherapy Month! In celebration of physiotherapists and all the work they do to improve our overall health, we’ve partnered with Pro Sport Rehab & Fitness‘s Corey Young to share more about the world of physiotherapy. Click here to meet Corey.
How would a Physiotherapist treat me?
Treatment for most injuries will begin with controlled rest, modalities (ultrasound, IFC, heat and ice) for pain and swelling, and light hands-on techniques to restore motion. As pain is controlled and the passive motion (movement by the therapist) is regained, the treatments will start to focus on the client regaining active motion (movement by the patient) and strength.
As we progress through the strengthening process, the therapist will then move to functional exercises to have the client ready to return to their previous level of activity, be it work, sport or life.
Occasionally the damage to tissue is too great to the tissue, and the treatment program may not be successful in returning to the client full function. In these cases, surgery may be needed. If that’s the case, the above above process is still a very valuable “pre-hab” to ensure a better post op result.
Some therapists have received training in additional techniques such as acupuncture, trigger point dry needling, release techniques that may be used at their discretion.
How long will I need to go to physiotherapy?
The first thing to realize is that the body heals at a steady but slow rate, and that strengthening and stretching (common PT treatments) take time. Most physiotherapy treatments take place over an extended time period.
Physiotherapy treatments for most injuries start with 2-3 visits per week for 2-3 weeks, then 1-2 visits per week for the next 3-4 weeks. You can expect to see your physiotherapist for 5-7 weeks for most injuries. If it’s a minor injury, you may only see a physio for 1-3 weeks, and if it is a complex or significant injury or one that requires surgery you may be seeing your physio for months. Once your in-person treatments are done, it doesn’t mean the work is over – you should continue your home program indefinitely.
Blue Cross Tip: Personal Health Plans offer $400 coverage for physiotherapists and other health practitioners! If you’re already a plan member, you can find your coverage details on your personal member portal and app. Not a member yet? Learn more about available plans here.
What are some of the common injuries a Physiotherapist might treat?
Due to the anatomic structure of the shoulder (a very large ball on a small socket) it is ideal for a joint with lots of mobility; however, we sacrifice stability for this mobility. The stability comes from capsule, ligaments and the rotator cuff muscles.
When this joint is stressed beyond its normal ability (motion or strength) it is highly susceptible to injury. The most common shoulder injuries a Physio will treat are dislocation of the shoulder joint, separation of the AC joint, rotator cuff or bicep tears, post-operative rotator cuff/labral repairs and tendonopathy (which will be discussed later).
Treatment for a shoulder injury will begin the same way described above. Specific treatment techniques for the shoulder may include a sling in the early stages, scapular control exercises and rotator cuff strengthening. A graduated overhead lifting and throwing program and possibly protective bracing as they return to function.
Low back and neck pain
Lower back and neck pain are very common. The spine has a large number of small joints, ligaments, muscles, vertebrae, discs and nerves in very close proximity, starting at the base of the skull all the way to your tailbone. Injury to any of these structures can be very debilitating.
Luckily the majority of back and neck pain can be treated without surgical intervention. The back can be injured by trauma such as falls, motor vehicle collisions and sport impact. They can occur by overstress when lifting too much, with poor technique or too often. Unfortunately, a lot of back pain occurs without significant trauma making it a frustrating condition to experience for the client and for the therapist.
Treatment to the spine may include incorporating acupuncture, massage therapy or chiropractic care. Additional physiotherapy specific treatments will include hands-on mobilization or manipulation (if trained), education on expected time frames for recovery, positioning, posture, lifting and activity level.
Core stability exercise is a crucial component of back care. Most back pain will respond in 4-6 weeks but it can take 4+ months to recover.
Contrary to the shoulder, the hip is an extremely stable joint, so acute joint injury is less common, unless in the case of severe trauma, like a car accident or hard sport collision. Most of the hip injuries seen by Physiotherapists are either acute muscle injuries (strains) or overuse injuries such as tendonopathy, arthritis, and femoral acetabular impingement (FAI).
As with most cases, a Physiotherapist would follow the above treatment process. Some specific hip treatments by physiotherapists are strengthening, education on limits of motion and pacing activity, movement with mobilization (MWM) to regain motion, and gait re-education with or without ambulatory aids if needed. Severe hip arthritis or FAI can lead to surgical intervention, but the goal of physiotherapy is to prevent this or delay as long as possible while maintaining an active lifestyle.
This is a very common injury in the body and can occur to any tendon (where muscle attaches to the bone). Tendonopathies are caused by impact, unfamiliar overuse or poor movement technique and unfortunately, they will not heal with rest alone.
Most often Physiotherapists will treat tendonopathies of the rotator cuff, elbow (tennis or golfers’ elbow), knee (patellar), or ankle (Achilles). In addition to the above treatment process, some treatments more specific to tendons include, frictions or extra corporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT), and an eccentric based exercise program. Tendonopathies take longer than other tissues to recover and you can expect a 2–3-month treatment program.
If you are thinking of starting an exercise program for general health, injury prevention or due to a specific weakness, physiotherapy is a great place to start! Your Physiotherapist will assess you to find out the goals of your program, determine where you may have muscular imbalance, where you plan to workout and what equipment you have access to. They will then develop a program based on these factors and show you the proper techniques and progression to make the program a success and decrease your chance of injury. If you require more in-depth exercise programming, a physiotherapist may suggest you work with an athletic therapist or personal trainer to maximize your goals.
Meet Corey Young, B.Sc.P.T.,B.Sc.P.E., CAT, AFCI
About Corey | Corey graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in 1995 from the school of Physical Therapy. After working with the Prince Albert Raiders for 3 seasons Corey was one of the founding members of Pro Sport Rehab and Fitness in Saskatoon in 1998 and continues to work there today. Since graduating, he has gone on to achieve certificates in Athletic Therapy, Acupuncture and Trigger Point Dry Needling. Corey has always had a passion for working in sports and with athletes. Some of the highlights he has experienced is being a part of the 1991 National champion Hilltop football team, the 1992 Saskatoon Slam basketball team league champions, Gold medal 1998 Team Saskatchewan under 17 hockey team, Gold medal 1998 Under 18 team Canada hockey team, Bronze medal 2000 team Canada World Junior hockey team and being inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.
About Pro Sport Rehab and Fitness | Pro Sport Rehab and Fitness is a multidisciplinary rehabilitation clinic located in Saskatoon’s north end, with a second location in Warman. Pro Sport Rehab applies a sport rehab approach to all injuries. Our disciplines include Physical therapy, Athletic Therapy, Chiropractic Care, and Massage Therapy. We also have therapists trained in acupuncture, extra corporeal shockwave therapy and pelvic floor therapy. Orthopedic braces are also available.