What is a Physiotherapist?


There is often confusion around the role of a physiotherapist,  chiropractor and osteopath.  Here, Kylie Pearsall, our resident Physiotherapist explains what her profession does and when you should visit a physio.

What is a physiotherapist?

According to the Australian Physiotherapy Association…

“Physiotherapy is a healthcare profession that assesses, diagnoses, treats, and works to prevent disease and disability through physical means. Physiotherapists are experts in movement and function…”

What types of conditions does a physiotherapist treat?

Many physiotherapists working in a private practice setting are experts in musculoskeletal disorders, like back pain, sports injuries and similar joint or muscular issues.  Physiotherapists receive training in managing cardiorespiratory and neurological disorders so the range of conditions that a physio can manage is quite broad.  You may find physiotherapists working in hospitals, community settings and private clinics working with people of all ages, from infants to the elderly.

There are physios who specialise in working with specific conditions or groups of people or using specific modalities of treatment.

Some of the conditions you may seek a physio for management for include:

  • Back or other joint pain
  • Soft tissue injuries
  • Breathing disorders and lung diseases
  • Rehabilitation after surgery or a neurological event (stroke)
  • Pre and post-natal exercise advice
  • Incontinence
  • Neurological disease (ie. MS)
  • Workplace injuries and ergonomic assessment
  • Developmental disorders, childhood injuries
  • Issues of mobility, requiring the use of aids- walking stick etc

What  techniques do physiotherapists use?

The modalities of treatment available to physiotherapists are equally broad

  • Joint mobilisation and manipulation
  • Soft tissue mobilisation (including massage)
  • Dry needling
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Airway clearance techniques and breathing exercises
  • Specific exercise programming
  • Mobility exercises and assistance
  • Clinical Pilates

When should you see a physiotherapist?

I’m often asked by people why they should see a physio as opposed to an osteopath or chiropractor. My response is usually as follows…

“You should see whomever makes you feel better, who you trust and who can resolve the underlying cause of your presenting complaint”

Naturally as a physio myself I have a deeper understanding of what I can offer than other professions in which I have no training- I’m not an osteo or chiro. There are outstanding practitioners in all three professions and I often find when I’m sharing clients with other professionals we are all on the same page, we just have different ways of getting to the same end goal- our client’s health!

My approach is straightforward, get to the cause of the issue and manage that, along with managing any symptoms along the way. This can include soft tissue, joint mobilisations, dry needling, taping, corrective exercise and clinical pilates programs.

Ideally your physio should be able to give you an explanation of what is wrong, a treatment or management plan and work in partnership with you on getting you to where you want to go.