Physiotherapy aims to treat both your pain and its cause, helping to improve your quality of life in the short term by reducing pain and preventing long-term issues. The treatment focuses on the science behind movement and aims to improve function in your joints and muscles.
It helps to restore movement in people who have been affected by injury, illness or disability, but can also be used to improve your health and to reduce the risk of injury in the future.
When to go and see a physiotherapist
Physiotherapy can be helpful for people of all ages with a range of health conditions, including:
- Neck and back pain
- Problems in the bones, joints, muscles and ligaments
- Lung problems, such as asthma
- Pelvic issues, including bladder and bowel problems
- Loss of mobility because of trauma to the brain or spine or due to diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis
- Fatigue, pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of muscle strength
Although you can be referred to a physiotherapist by your GP, you don’t have to be to see one. You can book your own appointment directly with a private physiotherapist, without a referral, if you feel like you could benefit from treatment.
What treatment techniques are used?
The techniques used will vary depending on your condition. You’ll be asked a range of questions about your symptoms and then be examined. Working with you, your physiotherapist will then create a treatment plan which could include advice and information, exercises for you to do at home and manual therapy performed by them.
There are a number of different techniques available as explained below.
Mobility and strengthening exercises
Joint and muscle mobilisation can help to restore movement and reduce pain. Mobility exercises are often used for people who have stiff joints as they can help to increase your flexibility as well as get your movement back. Your sessions might involve exercises and stretches by yourself or with the support of your physiotherapist.
Strength exercises are often used on areas of your body that have lost strength due to pain, injury or lack of use. The exercises can also help to prevent injury from happening again as the muscle will help to protect your bone, joints, ligaments and tendons.
Massage and manipulation
Both massage and manipulation techniques are often used by physiotherapists in treatment plans. Massage can help to improve mobility by loosening tight muscles and tissue and helping to reduce pain and swelling.
Manipulation works in a similar way. It’s also focused on loosening your body, however pressure is applied to a precise area to push your joint beyond its normal range of movement. Manipulation is safe but should only be performed by somebody who is appropriately trained.
Acupuncture and dry needling
Both acupuncture and dry needling involve the use of fine needles. They differ in where the needles are placed and how the treatments are used.
In dry needling, your physiotherapist will place needles into specific points of your muscles to treat pain and tightness and to improve movement.
Acupuncture focuses on placing needles in specific areas of your body that relate to where you are feeling pain, stimulating sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles.
Certain treatment plans might require specific types of therapy to help improve movement. For example, hydrotherapy is often used for people who have difficulty moving without any pain, most commonly for people with arthritis. Hydrotherapy is where you do a set of exercises in a pool where the warm water helps to loosen and support your joints.
Electrotherapy is another therapy option, where low-level electricity is used to reduce pain and encourage healing. Unlike hydrotherapy, this isn’t always used while doing the exercises but can also be used outside of your sessions to help relieve pain.
Support when visiting a physiotherapist
Having a health cash plan allows you to claim money back when accessing therapy treatments, including physiotherapy. With Westfield Health, you can claim back 75% of the cost, up to set limits, when referred to a registered physiotherapist by your GP or consultant. The amount you can claim up to depends on which level of cash plan you choose.
Without a health cash plan, to access a physiotherapist you either would need to be referred by your GP and to join the NHS waiting list or pay for the full cost yourself.
You can find out more about our health cash plan, the different levels available and all of the treatment you’re covered for.