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Physiotherapists use a range of treatments to reduce pain, restore function and improve an individual's quality of life. Treatments may include therapeutic exercise, massage, mobilisation and manipulation of joints, electrotherapy and hydrotherapy. Physiotherapists treat a wide range of people including babies, children, pregnant women, athletes, and people recovering from major surgery, heart disease or stroke. Specific duties include:
- Assessing patients'level of functioning, devising treatment plans, instructing in exercises to reduce pain and increase strength and mobility
- Recommending mobility aids such as walking sticks and frames or wheelchairs
- Instructing patients, family and carers in techniques to prevent illness or injury and the use of equipment to assist patients to move, including how to use equipment such as hoists
- Using equipment such as heat and ice packs, ultrasound and exercise equipment to reduce pain and swelling and increase mobility
- Managing breathlessness through breathing and relaxation techniques and addressing fluid retention through bandaging, exercise and massage
- Improving the quality of life and independence of palliative care patients
Physiotherapists may specialise in a number of areas such as those listed below.
Cardiorespiratory Physiotherapists assess and design therapeutic programs for patients recovering from cardiac surgery. Exercise programs include swimming, riding an exercise bike and walking on a treadmill.
Continence and Women's Health Physiotherapist
Continence and Women's Health Physiotherapists specialise in incontinence, sexual dysfunction and pelvic pain in men, women and children. They contribute to women's health related to child birth and concerns related to the ageing.
Gerontological Physiotherapists work closely with elderly by providing rehabilitation treatment and assisting them to maintain fitness and mobility.
Musculoskeletal physiotherapists work with individuals suffering from conditions of the bones or muscles to address issues such as pain, motor disorders, aging, trauma and injury.
Neurological Physiotherapists work with persons suffering from neurological conditions that cause problems with motor control and balance due to injuries, genetic factors, disease or illnesses.
Occupational Health Physiotherapist
Occupational Health Physiotherapists may work as educators to prevent workplace injuries as well as assessing work-related injuries and providing physiotherapy treatment.
Sports Physiotherapists educate athletes in how to prevent and minimise injuries, assess and treating injuries.
Due to the physical nature of the work physiotherapists need to have a high level of fitness. Physiotherapists should have a genuine interest in helping people suffering from illness or injury and good problem solving skills. They require well developed interpersonal and communication skills and the ability to be patient and supportive but firm when dealing with patients from disparate backgrounds.
Physiotherapists must complete an accredited degree in physiotherapy and register with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia in order to practice in Australia. Physiotherapists are also required to complete 20 hours of professional development each year to maintain their registration. Physiotherapists can gain accreditation in a specialist area by undertaking appropriate educational and professional development activities.
Principal Employment Sectors and Industry
Physiotherapists can work in many organisations; including hospitals, community health centres, rehabilitation centres, mental health clinics, private practice, school programs and universities.