Written by Tele Demetrious


What is Physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy is a therapeutic health profession that assists people with injuries, pain, stiffness, weakness, and other movement problems. Physiotherapists are university trained and are experts in injury diagnosis, injury treatment, exercise prescription, injury prevention, rehabilitation and many other areas of sport and musculoskeletal health and fitness. Physiotherapists also have the expertise to assess the underlying causes of musculoskeletal injuries and provide effective, evidence based treatment so you can resume your normal lifestyle as soon as possible with the least likelihood of recurrence. Physiotherapists educate patients and teach them the skills required to take care of their bodies using various tools and methods.

Following injury, physiotherapists use a variety of treatment techniques to hasten the body’s natural healing process and speed recovery. These treatment techniques may include: massage, mobilization, manipulation, exercise prescription, stretches, electrotherapy, hydrotherapy, clinical Pilates, taping, bracing, dry needling, ice or heat therapy, advice and education. The techniques used for each individual are carefully selected by the treating physiotherapist based on research demonstrating maximum benefit for their particular condition.

Aside from dealing with musculoskeletal and sports conditions, physiotherapy is also vital to ensure an optimal outcome in patients suffering from conditions in the following medical areas: neurological, cardiothoracic, paediatric and obstetrics.

In Australia you do not need a doctor’s referral to see a physiotherapist, unless you wish to be claiming the injury through insurance as a workplace injury or motor vehicle accident.

All physiotherapists are university educated health practitioners, with entry to the profession being at either Bachelors or Masters Degree level. Many physiotherapists also undertake further qualifications at Masters or Doctoral level in specialist clinical areas.

Read more about physiotherapy.

When should I see a Physiotherapist?

Patients often wonder when it is appropriate to see a physiotherapist.There are many instances when it is appropriate and beneficial to consult or see a physiotherapist. Some of these include:

  • If you have sustained an injury
  • If you have swelling, bruising or deformity of a body part
  • If you are experiencing joint stiffness, pain or ache (particularly if your symptoms have persisted for greater than 3 days)
  • If you are limping or protecting a limb due to pain
  • If you are experiencing pins and needles or numbness
  • If your limbs collapse or give way occasionally
  • If you have postural problems
  • If you need advice on improving strength, flexibility, balance or fitness
  • If you need advice on injury prevention or other aspects of musculoskeletal health
  • If you require treatment for an injury
  • If you wish to improve your physical performance for sport
  • If you are planning a return to sport or activity following a prolonged period of inactivity

As a general rule, if you are unsure, it is always better to consult a professional rather than not seek advice.

How can physiotherapy help my injury?

Physiotherapy can ensure your injury is thoroughly assessed and diagnosed correctly. This is essential to ensure the correct treatment techniques are chosen for your condition. Physiotherapy treatment can hasten your body’s natural healing process, accelerating your return to sport or activity. Appropriate treatment will also reduce the likelihood of recurrence by addressing factors which may have contributed to the development of your condition. Physiotherapists are experts in advising patients on which activities are appropriate for their injury to maximize recovery and ensure an optimal outcome.

Which Physiotherapy Clinic should I go to for treatment?

Choosing the right physiotherapy clinic for treatment can be difficult. Whilst all physiotherapists are university trained and qualified, it is important to select a physiotherapy clinic and physiotherapist who is trusted, knowledgeable and friendly and can provide the best quality treatment for your injury. When it comes to choosing a physiotherapy clinic and physiotherapist there are no hard and fast rules, but some things worth considering include:

  • How long has the physiotherapist been qualified for?
  • Is the physiotherapist a member of the Australian Physiotherapy Association?
  • Does the physiotherapist have a particular area of expertise?
  • Does the physiotherapist have post-graduate qualifications such as a PHD or Masters?
  • Does the clinic have a multidisciplinary team of professionals i.e. are there services for podiatry, massage, clinical Pilates, hydrotherapy, exercise physiology, sports medicine, psychology, personal training, myotherapy etc.?
  • Have you seen the physiotherapist before and did you achieve a good outcome?
  • Have your friends or family had a good experience from that physiotherapist or clinic before?
  • If you are already seeing a physiotherapist, is your condition getting better and staying better?

Some additional information which may assist you in making your decision may include:

  • How long is an initial consultation?
  • How long is a follow-up consultation?
  • What is the cost for an initial consultation and follow-up consultations?
  • Are there any discounts for concession?
  • Am I able to claim on private health insurance?
  • Are there HICAPS facilities?
Find a physiotherapy clinic

Why use PhysioAdvisor’s Find a Physio Directory?

PhysioAdvisor’s “Find a Physio” directory is an easy to use service which can assist you in finding an expert physiotherapist in your local area. All the clinics listed in PhysioAdvisor’s Find a Physio directory are of the highest quality and have experienced physiotherapists working for them. These clinics focus on delivering evidence based treatment techniques and employ fully qualified and respected professionals. PhysioAdvisor only lists those practices that offer an excellent service, so you can begin quality treatment for your injury now. Should you not receive the service you expect from one of our clinics then please let us know as we are always monitoring our referral base to maintain our high standards of service. 

Why use PhysioAdvisor’s Virtual Physio?

PhysioAdvisor’s unique “Virtual Physio” is a state-of-the-art system developed by a team of experienced physiotherapists over 3 years. The Virtual Physio enables users who suffer from pain or injury, to identify their most likely diagnosis and obtain patient specific information on how to manage that injury effectively.

Used by medical professionals and patients alike PhysioAdvisor’s Virtual Physio is a diagnostic tool, providing detailed information and direction for immediate, effective injury management. Whilst consultation with a doctor or physiotherapist is essential to confirm diagnosis, PhysioAdvisor’s Virtual Physio has numerous advantages and can provide an important link, accelerating the journey to physical wellness following injury. Some of the advantages of the Virtual Physio include:

  • It has the combined knowledge of a team of experienced physiotherapists
  • It has no time restraints
  • It is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week
  • It does not forget the information you provide
  • It consistently operates at the same high standards
  • It offers complete anonymity
  • It provides you with a comprehensive written report
  • It is freeIt has no interest in trying to sell you follow up and ongoing treatment sessions
  • It views your individual case objectively without personal biases
  • It is based on the latest research and knowledge

In short, PhysioAdvisor’s Virtual Physio can put you in touch with the information you need to take control of your injury.

(It is important to note, however, that the Virtual Physio should be used as a source of information only and should not replace consultation with a medical professional).

What are the advantages of purchasing products from PhysioAdvisor?

The PhysioAdvisor Shop is a secure online store that sells physiotherapist recommended products direct to the public. The products available are carefully selected by experienced physiotherapists to ensure the highest possible quality and value for the patient. Our goal is to take the guess work out of purchasing physiotherapy products online and to ensure the product you choose is beneficial and appropriate for you. We stock a wide range of sports injury products, physiotherapy supplies and rehabilitation equipment at an economical price. Our vast range of stock is selected from leading brands and includes: strapping tape, braces, wobbleboards, fitballs, compression bandages, supports, insoles, ice packs, heat packs, lumbar supports, resistance bands, and massage balls plus more. To view our vast range of physiotherapy products click on ‘Shop’ in our drop down menu.

Who writes the articles on PhysioAdvisor?

All articles found on PhysioAdvisor are produced by qualified physiotherapists all with 20 years or more of clinical experience. Our team of expert physiotherapists is dedicated to provide the latest and most up-to-date physiotherapy and health information available on the internet. Our team has had extensive experience working with elite athletes, sporting and government organisations such as the British Forces, the Bangladesh and Sri Lanka Cricket Teams, the Victorian Institute of Sport, Cricket Victoria, and the Victorian Rugby Union.

What is Pilates?

The question ‘what is Pilates?’ is commonly encountered in physiotherapy clinical practice.

Pilates is a form of physical exercise that focuses on posture, core stability, balance, control, strength, flexibility, and breathing. The Pilates Method was developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century in Germany. These days, Clinical Pilates is often used in conjunction with physiotherapy as a means of treating a variety of injuries, particularly those of the neck and back. This is based on literature that demonstrates strong evidence to support the use of therapeutic exercise in the management of patients with injuries, particularly low back pain. Recent research advocates the retraining of the deep stabilizing muscles for patients with low back pain. Clinical Pilates focuses on the retraining and recruitment of these stabilizing muscles (core stability) as well as improving posture, strength and flexibility.

Although Pilates can be extremely beneficial for patients with certain injuries it needs to be specific to the individual and not used as a generic tool for everyone. Clinical Pilates (as distinct to generic Pilates classes) identifies this key issue by applying carefully selected exercises to patients with specific injuries. This ensures optimal gains whilst minimizing the likelihood of injury aggravation. If you are interested in commencing Pilates for your injury, it is essential to have a review with a physiotherapist to assess the suitability of a core stability program for you.

Read more about this great form of exercise:


Figure 1 – What is Pilates?

What is Hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is a form of exercise that is undertaken in water, providing numerous health benefits for people of all ages. Hydrotherapy is particularly useful for patients who suffer from osteoarthritis or other injuries that are easily aggravated with weight bearing forces.

Benefits of Hydrotherapy

The benefits of this great form of exercise are largely due to the buoyancy of the water which helps to reduce the weight bearing impact on bones, muscles and joints. As a result, patients are able to keep active and perform exercises to improve their strength, flexibility, balance, fitness and general mobility, in an environment that is low impact. This reduces the likelihood of injury aggravation whilst maximizing healing and function. Following injury, patients participating in an appropriate hydro program are usually able to return to activity or sport faster than those who don’t.

Hydrotherapy (Swimming)

When should I use heat?

The question ‘when should I use heat’ is commonly encountered in physiotherapy clinical practice.

Heat should be used to speed injury healing once the injury has completed the inflammatory phase. The inflammatory phase normally lasts up to 72 hours following injury or injury aggravation. It is therefore, generally safe to use heat treatment after the initial 72 hour period following injury or injury aggravation. Heat is also an effective way to help reduce muscle tightness or joint stiffness.

How do I use heat?

Apply a heat pack for 10 – 30 minutes at a comfortable warmth to the injured area. This can be repeated 2 – 5 times daily or as required and should ideally be used before exercise. Ensure your heat pack is not hot enough to cause a burn. Wrapping your heat pack in towels can help to reduce the temperature.

When should I use Ice?

Ice treatment should always be used during the inflammatory phase of an injury. This occurs in the first 72 hours following injury or injury aggravation.

How do I use ice?

The injured area should be iced for 20 minutes every 2 hours. This can be accomplished by using crushed ice or an ice pack wrapped in a damp tea towel.

Read more about when to use ice or heat?

Ice Pack on Knee
When to use ice – knee injury

When is an X-ray, MRI, ultrasound, CT scan, bone scan, or other investigation appropriate for my injury?

There are many investigations that doctors and physiotherapists can utilize to help determine a patient’s diagnosis. Further investigation is usually used to help confirm or eliminate a suspected diagnosis following clinical examination and are frequently indicated in the following scenarios:

  • Severe or traumatic injury
  • Suspicion of serious pathology
  • Unusual clinical presentations
  • Unknown diagnosis following examination
  • Injuries that are unresponsive to treatment

As a general rule, investigations are only indicated if the outcome is likely to change treatment and should be discussed on an individual basis with your doctor or physiotherapist. It is usually unnecessary to perform expensive investigations to confirm an already obvious clinical diagnosis.

In addition, there are many instances when a thorough examination from a qualified professional is more accurate in determining a diagnosis than an investigation. This is due to the fact that many investigations are unreliable or have inaccuracies due to a variety of factors. Nonetheless, they have their place in the clinical setting and should be used at the discretion of the treating physiotherapist or doctor.

Read more about investigations.

Further investigation to assist with injury diagnosis (knee joint x-ray)
X-Ray of the Knee

Do I Need Orthotics?

A common question encountered in physiotherapy clinical practise is ‘Do I need orthotics?’. The use of orthotics is often indicated in patients with abnormal lower limb alignment and biomechanics, particularly of the feet. That is, they stand, walk or run, with less than ideal posture or movement patterns. Lower limb biomechanical abnormalities are often associated with the development of lower limb, pelvic or lower back injuries.

One of the most common biomechanical abnormalities seen in clinical practice is overpronated feet (flat feet). Flat feet frequently contribute to the development of numerous injuries. However, if you have flat feet, you don’t necessarily need orthotics. Many people who have flat feet never develop an injury associated with their foot posture. Usually orthotics are only indicated when a patient presents with abnormal lower limb mechanics AND they have an injury that is related to their poor biomechanics.

It is important to note that other factors related to the development of the injury also need to be addressed to ensure an optimal outcome. Wearing orthotics alone is usually inadequate to completely recover from an injury. Physiotherapy assessment and treatment can assist in identifying other contributing factors (such as muscle tightness, weakness, joint stiffness or lifestyle factors etc) and can correct these through appropriate treatment and exercise.

The prescription of orthotics in patients suffering from injury is usually indicated if foot postural taping (i.e. supporting the arch) causes a reduction in symptoms. Physiotherapists and podiatrists are experts in assessing the need for orthotics and should be consulted to assess the suitability of orthotics for a particular condition.

Appropriate footwear is also important and needs to be specific for the particular orthotic. There is a variety of orthotics available on the market, both “off-the-shelf” varieties and specifically casted orthotics designed for your individual feet. If you think you may need orthotics or are wondering ‘Do I need orthotics?’, a review with a physiotherapist or podiatrist is recommended.

Do I need orthotics? (Superfeet Orthotics)

Tape or Brace? Is it better to tape my ankle or use an ankle brace when I am returning to sport following an ankle sprain?

Tape or Brace?

Following an ankle sprain, the ankle joint is usually less stable and has an increased likelihood of further injury, particularly when returning to sport. This is due to disruption of the ligaments which normally act as a passive restraint and support for the ankle with sideways or twisting movements. In addition, patients normally suffer reduced balance following injury, further increasing their probability of injury recurrence. As a result, patients are recommended to use either rigid strapping tape or an ankle brace when returning to sport. Both of these supports improve the stability of the ankle, protecting it from sideways and twisting movements, therefore reducing re-injury likelihood.

The decision to use either tape or brace following an ankle sprain is usually a personal choice. Tape has the benefit of being less cumbersome than a brace allowing the foot to sit more comfortably in a shoe. It may also assist with improving proprioception (joint position awareness). Tape, however, can sometimes cause skin irritation or circulatory problems and tends to be more expensive than bracing in the long term. In addition, tape is usually more difficult to apply than a brace by one person, it requires some expertise in applying it correctly, and it may lose its effectiveness faster than bracing. Bracing on the other hand has several advantages over tape in that it can easily be applied by the patient, is a lot cheaper in the long-term, and, if reasonable quality, will usually last a long-time. Some disadvantages include the heaviness of the brace itself, the brace potentially slipping or moving around in the shoe and the occasional difficulty ensuring the brace fits appropriately both to the foot and into the shoe. Ideally, a patient should try both options before deciding upon the most suitable support, prior to their return to sport.

Tape or Brace (Ankle Taping)
Ankle Strapping
Tape or Brace (Ankle Brace)
Ankle Brace

How long should I spend warming up before my sport and what is the best way to do this?

One of the best ways to prevent injury is with an effective warm up prior to sport or activity. A proper warm up should be at least 15-20 minutes in duration and progress through a variety of stages. The purpose of an effective warm up is to increase heart rate and facilitate blood flow to the muscles to be used during the activity. This increase in blood flow, heart rate and body temperature improves the elasticity of both muscles and joints, alerts neural pathways and stimulates muscles in preparation for performance.

A warm up should gradually progress through four phases:

The first phase of a warm up should involve a low intensity cardio exercise such as light jogging or walking to increase the heart rate and to start getting blood flow to muscles. This should last for approximately 5-10mins.

The second phase of the warm up should involve dynamic range of movement exercises to loosen up the joints and muscles to be used. This phase of the warm up should focus on those specific body parts to be used for that particular sport. These stretches should be dynamic rather than static as static stretches will start to decrease heart rate and thus cause a cooling down effect – rather than a warming up effect which is what we are trying to achieve. Some examples of dynamic stretches could include lunges, squats, lower back rotations, trunk rotations, leg kicks, arm rotations etc.

The third phase of a warm up up should progress into agility, acceleration, deceleration and speed drills, preparing your body for faster movements that will be required for your particular sport. This should involve a gradual progression starting off at low intensity and building up to greater intensity. This phase of the warm up may involve for example, repeated strides, initially in straight lines and at low intensity and then progressing to change of direction and greater intensities.

The fourth and final phase of a warm up is the sport specific phase. This is where you perform the skills involved in your particular sport, initially at low intensity and then building up to greater intensity. For example footballers may perform running, jumping drills and kicking for goal, basketballers may perform dribbling, passing, shooting and rebounding etc. By the end of this phase you should be performing your particular skill at 100%, thereby ensuring you body is ready to perform the required skills in a match situation at 100%.

Warm Up Before Sport - Running
Running on Beach

Does stretching before sport help to prevent injury?

Maintaining good flexibility is an important aspect of athletic performance and injury prevention. It is widely accepted that poor flexibility and inadequate joint range of movement are significant factors contributing to the development of numerous injuries.

If performed correctly, stretching is an excellent way to improve flexibility. There are two main techniques used to stretch – static stretching and dynamic stretching. Static stretching involves taking a particular muscle towards its end of available range and holding it for a period of time. This enables the body to relax into the stretch. Dynamic stretching involves movement and takes the muscle and joints through their available range without stopping for prolonged periods.

Stretching before sport is important to loosen the muscles and joints through their available range in a controlled environment. The stretches selected, however, should primarily involve dynamic stretches, rather than static ones. This is because the main aim prior to sport is to conduct a thorough warm up of the body preparing it for the skills required for that particular sport. Dynamic stretches increase the temperature of the affected body parts assisting the warm up process. Static stretches on the other hand, cause a cooling effect thus counteracting the purpose of a warm-up. In addition, static stretching prior to sport has been shown to decrease muscle performance and may contribute to decreased athletic performance.

Recent research has demonstrated that static stretching before sport does not reduce the likelihood of injury during that particular activity. However, as mentioned previously, maintaining good flexibility overall does. It is therefore recommended that prior to exercise or sport, a thorough warm up including dynamic stretching should take place to reduce injury likelihood. Then, following sport or exercise, static stretches should be used to reduce muscle tightening, improve flexibility and assists with the recovery process.To view a variety of flexibility exercises for all parts of the body click here.

Does stretching before sport help to prevent injury? (Hamstring Stretch)
Figure 1 – Does stretching before sport help to prevent injury? (Hamstring Stretch)

My injury causes pain when I play sport, but I can play through it. Usually the warmer I get the less painful it becomes. However, afterwards, when I rest, it is sometimes sorer. Should I be playing through this pain or do I need to stop these possibly aggravating activities?

One of the most effective ways to hasten the healing of a particular injury is through avoidance of aggravating activities. Generally an activity aggravates a condition if:

  1. There is pain during an activity OR
  2. There is pain upon rest following an activity OR
  3. There is pain upon waking the following morning after an activity

Usually, when pain decreases as you warm up and then increases with rest following activity, this suggests you have inflammation. Inflammation generally lasts for 48 to 72 hours following injury or injury aggravation provided the injured part is rested. Continuing to play through this is likely to cause further damage and can contribute to the development of chronic injury, reducing the likelihood of a full recovery. Usually in these circumstances, a period of rest from the aggravating activity is indicated to allow your body to begin the healing process.

Inflammatory pain is also managed effectively with an anti-inflammatory approach such as the R.I.C.E. regime and the use of anti-inflammatory medication. Your physiotherapist can guide you on which activities to avoid, how best to manage your injury, and when it is appropriate for you to return to sport or activity.

Why do I get cramps and how can I prevent them?

Muscle cramps are painful, involuntary muscle contractions that occur suddenly and can be temporarily debilitating. Research suggests the mechanism of cramps is related to disturbances within the nerves and muscles. There are many factors that may contribute to the development of cramps. These include:

  • dehydration
  • low salt levels (potassium and sodium)
  • inadequate carbohydrate intake
  • muscle tightness
  • muscle or neural fatigue
  • muscle weakness
  • a lack of fitness or conditioning
  • training conditions
  • equipment or footwear
  • certain medications
  • poor recovery between training sessions or matches
  • lack of sleep

Strategies that may help with preventing or reducing cramps include:

  • ensuring your fluid, carbohydrate and electrolyte intake is adequate
  • avoiding any alcohol or caffeine intake
  • performing regular stretches to improve muscle length
  • ensuring you are adequately rested and recovered between training sessions and matches
  • implementing a strength and conditioning program to improve muscle function
  • ensuring your footwear, equipment and training surfaces are appropriate
  • obtaining advice from your doctor in regards to any medications you are taking that could be contributing to the development of this condition
Calf stretch commonly used to alleviate calf cramps
Figure 1 – Calf stretch which may be used  in some cases to prevent or alleviate a calf cramp

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