Where instant solutions are the norm, diseases are expected to be cured by ‘magic drugs.' Whatever be the condition, you take a medicine and you are bound to be back to normal, whether it be weight reduction or treatment of metabolic syndromes. But maintenance of health and wellness is only possible through repeated training and activity (of course, under supervision).
Physiotherapy is the field where this concept is being taught to the core. Physiotherapists learn about the anatomy and physiology of muscles, their functioning and the movements required to improve the functionality of different parts of the body. Some muscles tend to be tight while others tend to be weak causing multiple muscle and joint problems, which are stretched and strengthened respectively.
As a Rehabilitation specialist, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of our Physical therapy team in bringing back our patients’ lives to normal, along with the other team members, viz. occupational therapists, speech therapists, orthotists and psychologists. After formulating a rehab plan, we work in unison, and execute them with well-defined roles.
The apt exercises, activity modification and use of physical agents help reduce the need for medicines. For example, pain can be controlled by stretching exercises along with altering the temperature of tissues with the help of physical agents or passing electric current through them to modulate the pain.
In neurological conditions like stroke and cerebral palsy, each step consists of sets of exercises, tailor-made for every patient. Physical therapists work in tandem with Orthopedic surgeons and Physiatrists with a protocol to bring back movements and activity to normal. Pain management using physical agents and manual techniques again become important here.
Various other conditions such as back pain, bursitis, burns, wounds, muscular strains, rheumatoid arthritis, balance disorders, fibromyalgia, etc can also be managed with exercises. The outcome includes relief from pain, improved motions, and movements, reduce stress, strengthening muscles, independence, and overall higher quality of life.
Physiotherapy, as a field, has had its own giant leaps and advancements. Many of the activities which require strenuous repetitive manual labour are now replaced by advanced machines, allowing the professionals to concentrate more on complex tasks. For example., in Robotic Gait Trainer, the robot moves the legs for patients depending on the stage of the disease, and the repeatability helps in further improvement of the condition. The therapist does the initial assessment and sets the desired level of training for the patient. Virtual reality technique has also revolutionized the way treatment is being offered, as it has made the sessions more immersive.
Every year September 8th is observed as World Physiotherapy Day to raise awareness about their role and recognize their work for their patients and community. The theme for the day in 2022 is osteoarthritis and the role of physical therapists. Osteoarthritis is the most common joint condition which can affect any movable joints - most commonly the knees, hips, and hands. Hip and knee osteoarthritis which is 60 % of all osteoarthritis cases, is the highest contributor to disability. This condition can be successfully treated in most of the patients with tailor made exercises, along with medicines and regenerative interventions.
(Dr. Noufal Ali, in-charge Consultant, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Meitra Hospital, Kozhikode.)