Physiotherapy – more than muscles and massage!

Think about Physiotherapy. What comes to mind? Is it images of muscles, massage, and injured athletes? Indeed, physios play a key role in the sporting world, which is particularly topical heading into this year’s Olympics. Speaking of which, some of these aspiring athletes may need (knead) a physio…

Dr Allison Mandrusiak, a Physiotherapy lecturer at UQ, specialises in cardiorespiratory physiotherapy for people with lung and heart conditions, and finding fun ways to entice people to exercise. Now, that sounds like much more than muscles and massage! Allison gave us an insight into her world as a physio and breaks down some of the different career paths.

While muscles are magnificent, and massage certainly is an important part of the physio toolkit, there are many fields to be enjoyed in this diverse profession. Here’s a quick look at some of the lesser-known areas of this caring career.

A cardiorespiratory physiotherapist helps people who have heart and lung conditions such as cystic fibrosis or heart failure. This also includes patients in hospital after surgery or who are critically unwell in intensive care. You may not know this, but physios can actually use techniques to help clear phlegm from a patient’s chest. This helps to reduce obstruction in the airways and improves the amount of air getting into the lungs – a neat trick for patients who are having breathing difficulties.

Image: UQ physiotherapy student learning how to listen to a patient’s lungs

Neurological physiotherapy involves helping people who have a neurological impairment, such as multiple sclerosis, or after a stroke or brain injury. This is a really rewarding field, helping someone to learn to walk again or return to things they enjoy in life.

Physios can also work with patients and their families, covering all ages and stages of life – from newborn babies (paediatrics) to elderly people (geriatrics), as well as women during and after pregnancy (ante- and post-natal), and men’s health. Physiotherapy requires you to be creative and think outside the box in order to engage people in their therapy.

Image: Physios work with people across the lifespan

You can even do further study to become a physio for animals.

  Image source: shutterstock

So if you see yourself as a potential physio, keep in mind that while you may indeed work with an elite sports team, be prepared to learn about more than muscles. You may even discover you heart the heart, love the lungs, or become besotted with the brain!

Last updated:
16 January 2017