When you need to see a physiotherapist, a lot of people pick a physio based on word-of-mouth recommendations or whoever Google tells you is closest. As some of you may know, this can be a bit hit and miss.
When I was hunting around for a private practice job I was in a similar position to many people looking for a physio – how do I tell if this is a good practice with good physiotherapists?
Google can be helpful, in fact for a lot of us it is our first port of call. Websites and reviews can give you a rough idea of what the practice is like, and the services offered. Word-of-mouth is the other common way we hear about physiotherapy, but we shouldn’t just take this advice at face value. With a few simple questions, you can get a very good idea of how that physiotherapist works.
“If you don’t know what your condition is after seeing a physio, there’s a chance that they don’t either!”
Here are a few key things that you should keep in mind:
Education – did the physio explain the problem and how to treat it, AND did that person understand it?
Being informed about your condition is an important part of recovery. It will help you understand what you have injured, how the injury occurred, what you need to do to recover, and how to prevent the injury from happening again. If you don’t know what your condition is after seeing a physio, there’s a chance that they don’t either!
Electrophysical Agents (EPAs) – did the physio use machines on you?
EPAs such as interferential, ultrasound, suction cupping and TENS have been the treatments of choice for many physiotherapists. However, current research does not support their effectiveness in aiding recovery. At most, they may provide temporary relief and not actually address the underlying causes of your pain. Universities are now phasing out teaching EPAs to physiotherapy students due to the lack of research, and this is filtering through the wider physiotherapy profession. If your physio is using machines and not doing much else, you might want to reconsider where you go for treatment.
Exercise-based treatment – did the physio give you exercises to do?
Physiotherapy practice is continually changing, and currently there is a move towards exercise-based treatment. There is more research supporting exercise as a treatment than anything else that we do. Private practice websites often have pictures of their clinic – so look for a gym/exercise area in the practice when you’re shopping around. A physio who has a dedicated gym area and has invested in exercise gear values exercise as a vital part of your treatment and recovery.
Self-management program – did the physio give you things to do at home?
I had a client inform me that her old physio was brilliant! She could walk in feeling crippled and walk out feeling fantastic. She’d have to go back and see him every 1 or 2 weeks as the pain returned, but it worked. When I asked what he gave her to do at home, the answer was “nothing, there was no time for that!”.
It is great for a physiotherapist to be really hands-on and relieve your pain and symptoms, but the other half of the job is to show you how to manage the condition yourself! Otherwise, they are creating a situation whereby you rely entirely on them to manage your symptoms. A sure-fire way to know that that your physio is good is if they give you a self-management program. There are so many ways to self-massage, or do exercises that don’t require a gym, stretches to ease tightness etc. etc. If your physio is telling you what to do at home to avoid the need for regular appointments, you can be reasonably confident that they genuinely want to help and not just lighten the load in your back pocket.
Treatment frequency – how often did you need to see the physio?
There is no hard and fast rule regarding the number of physio sessions you need because it is entirely dependent on the injury and your individual characteristics. But keep in mind, the number of sessions your physio is recommending can be both used and abused. As a very general rule, treatment sessions should not be more frequent than the amount of time we would reasonably expect to see some improvement. The issue arises when the physio wants to see you very frequently but your condition is very slow to improve despite those frequent sessions. Essentially, your physio should be able to justify why they would like to see you that often, but then adjust that according to your preferences.
So, if you’re looking for a physio that satisfies all of the above criteria, come and meet the Physiotherapy Team at Sydney West Sports Medicine. We are a team of fully qualified and highly experienced physiotherapists that use a range of manual and exercise therapies to provide the highest quality of client care and satisfaction.
To enquire or make a booking call us on (02) 9851 5959.