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What does a Physiotherapist do?

Physiotherapists take a science-based approach and look at the whole person including their lifestyle and general wellbeing. They educate patients so they can become involved in their own care and often give advice about posture, lifting techniques and the correct ways to carry objects. Physiotherapists frequently recommend exercises to strengthen specific parts of the body and improve overall health and mobility. These may be exercises which are done at home or they may suggest exercises which are done in warm, shallow water known as hydrotherapy, or general activities such as swimming and walking. They also use manual therapy. This may be the aforementioned massage or other forms of manipulation. Some physiotherapists also use specialist methods such as acupuncture, ultrasound and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (where mild electric currents are passed through the skin). Physiotherapy can be defined as the use of physical methods such as massage, heat treatment and exercise to treat those affected by illness, injury or disease, rather than the use of surgery or drugs. It can also be used to help reduce risk of injury or illness in the future.

How can Physiotherapy help?

Physiotherapy is commonly used to treat back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain and sports injuries as well as movement problems following a stroke or resulting from multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease. It can also assist with rehabilitation after a heart attack, and lung and breathing difficulties such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis. Some also use it in preparation for child birth. Physiotherapy is available on the NHS and via private therapists.

How to become a Physiotherapist

To become a qualified physiotherapist in the UK, you must pass an approved degree. This will take three years if you study full time and around six years if you study part time. You will need three A Levels to get onto most courses and these will usually need to include a biological Science and possibly PE, as well as at least five GCSEs including Maths, English and one Science. There are also some accelerated MScs available for those with non-cognate degrees. To be successful therapists need to show an aptitude for caring as well as knowledge of physiotherapy. Physiotherapists need to be good listeners, motivators and able to explain treatments clearly and calmly. In addition they should also have good manual skills and be physically fit themselves as the work can often be strenuous. To practice in the UK, physiotherapists must register with the Health and Care Professions Council and have professional liability insurance. They have to keep their knowledge and skills up to date and pay an annual retention fee. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists is the professional, education and trade union body for around 56,000 physiotherapists in the UK.