Physiotherapy is an essential healthcare profession that addresses a variety of physical ailments. But how do you know which physiotherapy specialty is right for you?

Choosing the right specialty can significantly impact outcomes. Whether it’s recovering from an injury, managing a chronic condition or improving mobility during the aging process, each specialization has its own unique set of skills and techniques.

Musculoskeletal

While almost everyone experiences muscle aches and pains every now and then, sometimes these can become more severe or persist over time. During this point, it’s a good idea to seek the attention of a specialist trained in evaluating joint, bone, cartilage, ligament and tendon issues. These specialists are known as musculoskeletal (MSK) physiotherapists.

This is a broad field that covers everything from acute injuries to chronic conditions like arthritis. MSK therapists will assess your symptoms and determine the best course of treatment, such as manual therapy, specific therapeutic exercise, electrical stimulation, and advice on posture and movement.

Another area of specialization is cardiovascular and pulmonary physiotherapy, which focuses on the lungs and heart. Cardiovascular and pulmonary specialists can help you with a variety of conditions, including thoracic outlet syndrome, peripheral arterial disease, respiratory diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and more. They are also certified in advanced cardiac life support and have the knowledge needed to perform chest percussion therapy and airway clearance. They are also qualified to assess and manage a patient’s risk factors for heart disease and provide education to prevent future occurrences.

Cardiovascular & Respiratory

Cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy is a clinical specialty focused on the care of people with heart and lung conditions, such as pneumonia. These physiotherapists treat patients who are recovering from heart surgery or have heart disease, as well as those with chronic respiratory diseases such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) and cystic fibrosis.

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The APTA recognized cardiovascular and pulmonary physiotherapy as a clinical specialization in 1981. Since that time, clinical practice in this specialty has changed considerably. In order to ensure that the physiotherapists practicing in this specialty are up to date with current clinical practices, the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties requires a practice analysis to be performed at least every 10 years.

This process resulted in the 2007 version of the Description of Specialist Practice: Cardiovascular and Pulmonary. The revised document serves to reframe specialty practice, with particular attention to the changing health care environment and to bring the cardiovascular and pulmonary specialist’s role in alignment with the Guide to Physical Therapist Practice.

The reframed practice pattern includes specific content on edema management and volumetric measurements, which were not included in the original survey but appear to be increasingly important aspects of specialist practice. Additionally, the practice pattern removed items that were not considered to be representative of specialty practice, such as screening and systems review.

Women’s Health

Women’s health physiotherapy acknowledges the unique musculoskeletal needs of women. It is a women-centric approach that supports the body’s natural changes to alleviate pain, improve mobility and enhance the quality of life.

Pregnancy often brings a lot of changes in the woman’s body that could cause muscle and joint pain. Physiotherapy helps with reducing these problems during and after pregnancy. Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) is one of the most common concerns during pregnancy that causes pelvic and groin pain. It is caused by hormonal and postural changes. Women’s health physiotherapy is usually focused on improving posture alignment, strengthening the muscles and releasing soft tissue tightness to manage PGP.

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Urinary incontinence can occur post-partum or any time during a woman’s lifetime. It may be due to underlying weakness of the pelvic floor muscles or core instability. Physiotherapy often focuses on releasing the tight pelvic floor muscles and modifying diet and lifestyle to address these issues.

Women’s health physiotherapy also helps during birth preparation to help prepare the pelvic muscles for a healthy and safe pregnancy. It also helps with reducing back and neck pain, alleviates abdominal muscle gap (diastasis recti) and improves breastfeeding difficulties. It also carries out manual therapy and relaxation techniques to reduce the stress during labor and delivery. It also assists with the recovery of back and abdominal muscles after C-section surgery and regains pelvic floor muscle strength.

Neurological

There are many different physiotherapy clinic specialties, not only musculoskeletal (who you commonly see for that sore back or knee) but also women’s health, pediatrics, respiratory and neurological physiotherapy. The latter focuses on conditions involving the nervous system, which can include things such as stroke, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Guillain Barre Syndrome.

Unlike musculoskeletal physical therapy, neurological physiotherapy is designed to help patients improve movement and mobility, reduce symptoms and pain, and prevent further deterioration of their condition. They do this by helping patients strengthen their muscles, build balance and coordination, and learn to compensate for their lost or limited abilities.

This is achieved by using techniques that take advantage of the brain’s ability to restore and create new pathways – a process called neuroplasticity. This allows the brain to “rewire” itself to improve movement, reduce pain and improve overall quality of life.

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The goal of this type of physiotherapy is to improve the strength and independence of people with neurological conditions, and slow down their physical deterioration by ensuring that they perform regular exercises at home or at Powerhouse Physio on a regular basis. This is done by improving the use of their weak muscles, helping them regain control over their movements, and encouraging them to try out various activities. This is especially important as some neurological disorders are progressive, meaning they get worse over time.

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