Sometimes, our bodies need a push in the right direction. We all want to move freely, easily, and without pain, but it’s easier said than done. Whether you have a chronic injury or muscle tightness from working at home, visiting a manual practitioner can do wonders for you and your body.If you’re new to the world of Rehab, it can feel difficult to decide what type of treatment you need. Practitioners have a wide range of specialties. How do you make the right choice?
One of our goals at HealthOne is to be a resource for educating you about health and wellness. We’re here to inspire you through valuable information so you can play an active role in your care approach.
The world of Rehab is a big one, so today we’re featuring two forms of manual therapy we offer: physiotherapy and massage therapy. We’ll cover all the basics including what they are, what happens during an appointment, and the key signs you might need treatment.
What is Physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy is a hands-on, patient-centered approach to healthcare that promotes the recovery of your injury, illness, or disability. According to Alex, there are two main categories of patients he works with.
“One is they have a very acute injury,” he says. “Let’s say a sports injury, where they twist their ankle or injure a ligament in their knee. They experience some sort of pain and their function is limited.”
In this case, physiotherapy would be used to assess the injury, figure out how good or bad it is, determine if they need to see a doctor and whether they need x-rays or an ultrasound.
“Essentially, we’d come up with a program to help them get back to 100% depending on what their goal is–whether it’s to return to sports, or be able to walk or run more,” he explains.
The second category is people who notice aches and pains creeping up. Usually, the pain is something they weren’t experiencing months ago and isn’t resolving on its own.
In both cases, a Physiotherapist can play a large role in assessing and diagnosing the injury or pain. From there, they’ll come up with a treatment plan to help the patient work towards their goals.
What happens during a Physiotherapy appointment?
The first step is an initial assessment. “I always sit down with the client and figure out why they’re here and what they’re hoping to get out of their session,” Alex shares.
Understanding the patient’s goals plays a big role in determining the best treatment approach. An assessment is often very movement-based to give the practitioner a better idea of your abilities.
“Essentially, we’re trying to figure out that person’s posture, how they move, and if we can get them moving better. That typically involves assessing their strength, flexibility and balance based off of how they do with certain tests.”
Oftentimes, a part of your treatment approach will be a customized exercise program. This can include more gentle movements, like stretches, or more strength-based workouts. The assessment gives your Physiotherapist a better idea of what exercises can help you reach your goals.
Another part of your treatment approach can include hands-on therapy. “Depending on the practitioner, that could involve acupuncture, electroacupuncture, deep tissue massage, or even adjustments,” Alex says.
Every person’s body is unique, so a Physiotherapist will come up with the best treatment for your specific needs. They will also review how long it should take and how often you need to visit them.
According to Alex, acute injuries take around 12 weeks to heal. He’ll typically see patients once or twice a week depending on the severity of their case. For someone with chronic issues, on the other hand, treatment could be every 2 weeks to provide maintenance on an ongoing basis. The ultimate goal at the end of the day, regardless of your situation, is to get you moving better.
Key signs you should consider Physiotherapy
Physiotherapists are movement and exercise specialists. While injuries are the main issues these practitioners treat, you may still be a good candidate for an assessment even without an active injury. We asked Alex for the 3 key signs someone should consider physiotherapy:
1. You have a new injury.
Thinking that you need to wait before seeing a Physiotherapist is far from the truth. In fact, seeing a physio when you have a new injury can help you get ahead on managing it correctly.
“9 times out of 10, people come in after an injury too late,” Alex says. “They wait a couple of months, it doesn’t get better, then at that point, we have to undo a lot of compensations because people get weaker and stiffer.”
So, be proactive and seek help in the unfortunate case that an injury happens to you. Waiting will only prolong your healing.
2. You have a chronic injury or persistent pain.
If your injury or pain isn’t improving, it’s another sign you should visit a Physiotherapist. "Something is likely causing it that hasn’t been addressed yet, and we’re the perfect person to do that,” he explains.
Physiotherapists work with the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, bones, and have training in neurological issues, too. No pain is off-limits. What a lot of people don’t know is that they can also treat Bell’s Palsy, Cerebral Palsy, strokes, and even help people with cardiovascular and lung issues.
3. You want to learn more about your body.
Anyone who wants to improve their understanding of their body should see a Physiotherapist. Whether you want to start an exercise program or receive guidance on learning how to move better, a physio can help. An initial assessment is a perfect opportunity to discuss where you’d like to improve and determine how a physio can help you reach your goals.
“If you fall into any of those three categories, then you should for sure see a Physiotherapist,” Alex concludes. His favourite thing about his job is helping people move better and experience less pain, so it’s certainly worth a visit to experience these benefits yourself.
Now that we’ve covered physiotherapy, let’s hear what Gurdev, our Registered Massage Therapist, has to say about her work.
What is Massage Therapy?
Massage therapy is a hands-on treatment approach performed on the soft tissues of the body for the purpose of optimizing health. Gurdev shares that the main purposes are to treat musculoskeletal pains, neurological pains, and reduce stress and anxiety. “It can also help people restore their health and wellness,” she adds.
Pain in the body can be experienced for a variety of reasons. A Massage Therapist manipulates the joints, ligaments, tendons and connective tissue in the body to reduce the pain you’re experiencing. They also take a full-body approach to treatment. “When it comes to massage therapy, we don’t only look at joints or muscles. We treat the whole body and both your mind and body together,” she says.
A lot of patients who seek massage therapy are stressed, anxious, or depressed. This can activate the sympathetic autonomic nervous system, which prepares us for “fight or flight”. When our bodies are in this state, we can experience an increased heartbeat, dilated pupils, and more adrenaline to protect us from the perceived danger.
Massage can be an effective technique for reducing these levels of stress in the body. It can activate the parasympathetic autonomic nervous system, which helps us to “rest and digest”. When we’re in this state, our bodies are calmer. A reduced heartbeat, contracted pupils, and relaxed muscles are some of the main physical changes we can experience.
The stress management aspect of massage therapy is one of the main differences it has over other forms of manual therapy. By taking a global approach, RMT’s treat the body as a whole and can help to reduce your pain and stress levels.
What happens during a Massage Therapy appointment?
Alex, our Physiotherapist, previously emphasized that his #1 goal is to understand why each patient comes in and what goals they hope to accomplish. For Gurdev, her approach to patient care is the same.
“When people come in for an initial assessment, I find out what their goal is for treatment. It varies from person to person. It's important to look at both their short-term and long-term goals while creating a treatment plan,” she explains.
Examples of short-term goals could be to decrease pain or increase your range of motion. Long-term goals could be to increase the functioning of your body or improve your health and wellness overall.
Massage Therapists can use a variety of techniques to treat your problems and work towards your goals. Swedish techniques include effleurage (circular movements), petrissage vibrations (kneading), and tapotement (striking). There are also Non-Swedish techniques that can be used, including trigger point release with static pressure, friction to break adhesions and manual lymphatic drainage, among others.
How often you go for massage therapy depends on you, your needs, and the treatment plan your RMT comes up with. “Problems can exist but people might only experience signs and symptoms later on. I recommend people come once a month for maintenance, and to avoid any injuries from developing–like if they’re sitting at a computer, working repetitively and using their tendons a lot.”
Key signs you should consider Massage Therapy
Massage Therapists can use their expertise and manual therapy techniques to improve your body as well as your mind. We asked Gurdev for the key signs someone should consider massage therapy:
1. You experience stress and/or anxiety.
“Right now, everyone is suffering from COVID-19 and stress,” she says. “It’s a tough time that can lead to muscular tension and spasms.”
You don’t need to have persistent pain to benefit from the therapeutic effects of massages. If you experience stress or anxiety, it can be a great way to relax and unwind both your body and your mind. As a Medical and Wellness Centre with multiple services under one roof, our HealthOne team also has counsellors that provide individualized counselling. This is a great option to compliment massage therapy so you get a multifaceted care approach for your mental health concerns.
2. You have limited abilities while doing everyday tasks.
Being able to move easily with free range of motion is a big part of living an inspired life. “If you have restricted range of motion or less capability to do activities in your life, like home or work, you should definitely come to see us,” Gurdev says.
Our current lifestyles can be a contributing factor to this. People who work on the computer a lot, for example, can be prone to tension headaches and tight muscles. It’s all connected, so if something in your body feels different, you should consider visiting an RMT.
3. You have pain in your body.
The last one might seem obvious, but massage therapy is a treatment worth considering if you’re experiencing pain. Whether it’s in your neck, back, or shoulders, you should listen to your body’s cues. An RMT has the right skills and knowledge to treat the source of your pain directly and bring you closer to an inspired life without limits.
A Unified Approach to Rehab
With the help of Alex and Gurdev, we hope you’ve gained a better understanding of both manual treatment methods and whether they’re right for you. Our practitioners work collaboratively to offer you a unified approach to caring for your physical health.
Along with physio and massage, our Rehab team has many other experts skilled in manual therapy. Visiting multiple practitioners is a great way to get a better understanding of your problem through different lenses of care.
“It’s important to go to a place that has a dynamic team,” Alex says. “The way different practitioners think and are trained, it really compliments the client well because they’re getting different approaches. So, I do recommend that people see not just their physio but see what chiro is like, or their RMT, osteopath, even dietitian. We even have a sports doctor here! There are so many ways of looking at one issue that it’s important to find a team that works well together.”
Moving freely, easily, and without pain is easier said than done–but it isn’t impossible. HealthOne is here to help you move better and live a more inspired life each day. Click here to book an appointment with a member of our Rehab team.
One Life. Live Inspired.