Physiotherapy: The body restorer

Physiotherapy dates back to ancient times, however, modern physiotherapy has been widely used since the early 1920s where various methods of have been applied for different injuries in various parts of the body.

Right from minor injuries to major injuries, physiotherapy has been established to be an effective tool against injuries and pain and according to Wayne Damons PT, physiotherapist at H Roland Physiotherapists at the Roman Catholic Hospital in Windhoek, ‘physiotherapy’ is composed of two words; ‘physio’- the physiological (i.e. muskeloskeletal) systems of the body and ‘therapy’ - the different techniques and modalities used to treat patients.

Physiotherapy is not only a method of treatment but it also focuses on prevention of injuries and disorders in movements. Its main focus, however, is to restore normal functioning and the relief of pain.

It stimulates healing through both mechanical as well as physical means like heat, electrotherapy, exercise, education and support. Moreover, it also deals with fitness, body mechanics and education.

Physiotherapists treat patients from all walks of life, each with different needs but all of them (patients) are always eager to return to full participation in their day-to-day lives. The treatments given by physiotherapists differ according to the severity of the injury or disorder and the part of the body needing treatment.

“In hospitals, the biggest contribution of physiotherapy is that it treats chests, mobilises patients from their beds after illnesses or surgeries and assists with regaining of functional loss or decline in the lower and upper limbs,” Damons explains.

Physiotherapy is also useful in a situation where a person has difficulty in performing their daily activities due to arthritis or gout conditions in the elderly as well as stiff painful joints in younger people. In addition, this therapy does not depend on the age nor gender, as it can be applied to a new born baby, young or old individuals.

A common misconception among people before joint surgery is that they will be capable of performing exercises and managing rehabilitation processes on their own after the surgery but it turns out that one way or another, almost every individual will need the specialised skill and techniques only known better to physiotherapists.

As emphasised by his colleague, Faith Mukwambo, also a physiotherapist at H Roland, patients do not need to be referred to a physiotherapy practice by a doctor.

Physiotherapists are usually the primary diagnosticians.

“They can come straight to us without a medical referral, we will assess their condition and then plan a therapy program accordingly or refer them to an appropriate member of the medical team. However, in case of a major surgery or when a patient is from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU); then they will be referred to us by a doctor or specialist,” she points out.

Physiotherapy can be used in various medical conditions where orthopaedics, are required, for instance. Therefore after a patient has been put in a fitting of a cast and brace, following an injury, a specialised program to regain flexibility in the limbs must then be applied, hence physiotherapy.

Moreover, after a heart surgery or stroke, patients will be assisted in obtaining full respiratory functions and endurance so they can tolerate exercise.

Amazingly, it can also treat sinus congestion; helps in the healing of wounds, painful jaw problems, migraines while using their electrotherapy equipment and joint or spinal mobilisation.

Physiotherapy is also useful after birth to assist the mother in regaining pelvic and core stability as well as pain relief. Besides, it can be used on a new born baby with disability in helping the child to regain as much independence as possible; although it might not get rid of this disability forever.

The most common reason why patients consult physiotherapists is for back pains caused by various factors. In this case, physiotherapists treat the muscle spasm, lack of movement, pain using vertebral mobilisation, myofascial release, neural stretches, heat, electrotherapy and exercise to regain pain-free, full movement.

“The duration of a particular program is never fixed. Since the program is specially designed to meet the patient’s requirement, every procedure lasts for a different time. For every person, the duration of treatment is different and so is the rate of healing of the disorder,” Damons points out.

All those exercises and treatments require that one gets treated by a trained qualified physiotherapist.

When you visit a physiotherapist, you will hear about ultrasounds, interferential therapy and lasers, these are electrical devices that use light or sound or electrical energy to achieve pain relief, reduction in swelling or muscle spasm to decrease scar tissue structures. They also use new techniques like acupuncture; dry needling myofascial release.

Unfortunately, a physiotherapy course is not offered in any of the public or private universities in Namibia. Consequently, Namibians interested in becoming one have to either register in one of the South African universities or go to Europe or Cuba.

A statistic survey made in 2007 by the Namibian Society of Physiotherapy showed a lack of physiotherapists in Namibia, counting only 65 registered physiotherapists in the whole country.

“Even after returning from studies abroad, one is required to register with health professions council of Namibia (HPCNA) and then do a year of internship, in order to be recognised in Namibia. This procedure applies as well to experienced physiotherapists who have been working outside this country,” Faith stresses.

According to Wayne and Faith, the work is very rewarding but requires being fit and healthy as work can be strenuous, “Nothing beats the smile on the face of a mother whose child finally manages to control his head while sitting up after long periods of rehab,” they conclude. PF