May 19, 2010

Movement at the Heart of Physiotherapy

Many people think of physiotherapists as the person you see when you've had a car accident or an athletic injury.

But what about seeing a physiotherapist for disease prevention, pregnancy, pre or post surgery? There's more to physiotherapy than broken bones and sprains. Physiotherapists work with a variety of people from following a stroke, to women who are pregnant to help them manage mobility and pain.

"Physiotherapists are educated to deal with a range of medical issues and focus on prevention," says Eva Karpyza, a physiotherapist with the Winnipeg Health Region. "We're well educated in all of the body systems so if there are other things that impact your recovery, we can deal with them," says Karpyza.

Physiotherapists are experts on mobility. One way they work with people is on an outpatient basis to help get their bodies back in motion.

Mobility can be impacted by any number of things, including:

  • heart and lung disease

  • strokes

  • brain injuries

  • spinal cord and nerve injuries

  • burns

  • pregnancy

  • impaired urinary functions

  • before or after surgery

  • motor vehicle accidents

  • arthritic pain

  • traumatic injuries

Physiotherapists are members of a health care team of professionals who can support your health while you're in the hospital or a facility. For example, a physiotherapist is called in for a consult when a person has had knee surgery to get them up walking, teach them home exercises and to determine their readiness to go home.

Teaching and Learning

They also work closely with people to educate them about their health and how to prevent illness and injury.

A physiotherapist strives to help the person understand the concepts and principles they're presenting; providing the information that empowers a person to improve their health.

Ongoing professional development is a commitment physiotherapists have made to ensure they're providing people with the latest information. When courses are available in Winnipeg, members of a team will take turns going and share what they learn with each other.

Working with medical rehabilitation students also provides new learning opportunities. "We ensure that the students have a good experience but as well we always learn something new from them, a new way of looking at a problem. It's good to have them here," says Karpyza.

What is the most rewarding part of the job? "The many wonderful people that we work with, many who have medical challenges and show us how well they can handle these adversities. It's a pleasure to work with people, who are motivated to succeed. You do whatever you can so they can achieve their goals and return to normal function," she says.

Karpyza has been working for 32 years in public practice. "One of the favourite parts of what I do is having people leave here saying that they are feeling better, or that they have learned something new about their condition that is going to help them deal with their health issues."

The Facts

257 The total number of physiotherapists working in the region.
187.4 the number of EFTs for physiotherapists in the region.

Physiotherapists in Manitoba require a bachelor's degree in medical rehabilitation.

Physiotherapy is regulated by the College of Physiotherapists of Manitoba.
5,028 The number of physiotherapist referrals received in orthopedics alone in the latter half of 2009.
4,260 The number of orthopaedic outpatients seen by physiotherapists in the region in the latter 6 months in 2009.
17% The increase in the number of referrals from the previous year.

Further Reading

What is physiotherapy?

Canadian Physiotherapy Association

These Hands, a commercial promoting physiotherapists

Manitoba Physiotherapy Association -Find a physiotherapist

About Fitness and Mobility

"It's crucial for everyone, no matter what their age, to exercise, to have some sort of a fitness regime. You're going to have better muscle strength; better endurance and you're going to find it easier to do the things you normally need to do. It's also important to work on balance," explains Karpyza. "As we get older, the incidence of falling is greater. If you work on strengthening and balance exercises the likely hood of falls will decrease, this will help lower your risk of illness like diabetes and obesity.

If you're older, have a chronic health concern like diabetes or are obese, the idea of a fitness program may seem overwhelming. What's a person to do?

"Start walking. I tell my patients who haven't exercised all to begin by walking a distance that is comfortable for them. Start slowly and increase the distance that you are walking slowly," she says. "Many people overdo it at first and then never try again.

The goal to incorporate fitness and exercise into your life, not to use it as a short-term means to fit into your skinny jeans or recover from a fall. Simply walking regularly can help improve the way your body functions and your overall health. A physiotherapist can also help create a specific exercise prescription that works for you, your current health status and your abilities.

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