What to Look for in a Physiotherapist

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Alberta Physiotherapy states: “Physiotherapists get you moving and keep you moving. Physiotherapists are highly-educated experts in physical function, movement and mobility. They have advanced knowledge of how the human body moves and what stops it moving. Physiotherapists use specialized hands-on treatment to restore, maintain and maximize optimal function and quality of life. Physiotherapists:

  • Assess, diagnose and treat physical symptoms and limited movement caused by injury, aging, disability or health condition.
  • Help clients understand what’s causing their condition.
  • Work with clients to restore, maintain and maximize movement, flexibility and physical independence.
  • Develop customized treatment plans that help clients take back control.
  • Teach clients how to restore, maintain and/or maximize movement, reduce pain and manage any chronic symptoms.
  • Teach clients how to stay well, avoid future injury and achieve the best quality of life they can.​​

As movement specialists, Physiotherapists use a hands on approach to help you restore, maximize and maintain movement for the rest of your life. In Alberta, Physiotherapy is a regulated healthcare profession. This means only qualified professionals can become registered Physiotherapists and use the titles Physiotherapist, Physical Therapist or PT. “(1)

Practice Settings

From the Intensive Care unit or post-surgical ward of a hospital, to stroke and brain injury clinics, professional and amateur sporting teams, private orthopedic clinics, pelvic health clinics, dizziness and balance centres, respiratory speciality clinics, return to work support facilities and even with professional entertainment groups such as the Cirque du Soleil! Whew! And that is just a few of the places you will find Physiotherapists providing care to clients. This post will help guide you to find the right Physiotherapist to suit your needs within a private orthopedic or musculoskeletal focused clinic.

Education & Credentials

Physiotherapy is a regulated healthcare profession. Only qualified professionals can become registered Physiotherapists and use the titles Physiotherapist, Physical Therapist or PT. (1)

Entry-level education for Physiotherapists practicing in Canada is standardized, so you can be assured that a licensed Physiotherapist is well trained and accountable. If your Physiotherapist is of a “certain age” they will hold a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy, whereas more recent graduates will hold the equivalent which is now a Master’s degree.

  • Physiotherapists specialize post-graduately (i.e. we continue to train and certify in specific areas after we leave university.) Some Physiotherapists also continue into academia to gain a PhD with a research focus.
  • FCAMPT and CAMPT certified*. At Fifth Ave Physiotherapy, our Physiotherapists have been awarded the internationally recognized Fellowship in Manual and Manipulative Physiotherapy (FCAMPT) or are in the process of working toward this designation. This process can take up to 4 years of specialized training and rigorous exams. The FCAMPT designation is standardized internationally and gives you assurance that your Therapist has the highest level of training in orthopedic/musculoskeletal Physiotherapy assessment and treatment in the world.

Now for the Practical Tips!

First and foremost, find a Physiotherapist who you can connect with and build trust as part of a “therapeutic alliance”. Evidence supports a strong connection being key to successfully getting over an injury or helping learn to recover from chronic pain (2). You want the treatment plan and interventions to be specific and meaningful to you.

Here are some qualities to seek out in your Physiotherapist:

  • Promotes confidence, independence, self-management and pain reduction as pillars of care.
  • Healthy debate is welcomed. Expect to ask Why? What? How? When?
  • Listening. The “right” Physiotherapist for you is the one that takes the time to understand who you are, how you move, what motivates you and what pushes your buttons. An observation I’ve made over the years is that if we Physiotherapists take the time and creativity to listen and learn who you are, then productive and successful treatment will follow.
  • Clear goal setting for accountability and progression.
  • Clear diagnosis and treatment plan along with expected timelines for follow up visits and estimated overall time for recovery.
  • Ongoing reassessment.
  • Coaching to help find movements and activities in a meaningful context and sometimes to help with motivation.
  • Coaching also includes empathy, understanding and sometimes nudging! A good coach is curious and not afraid to try.
  • Collaborates with other healthcare providers including your Family Physician, Psychologists, other Specialists and your support system. Our minds and bodies are part of the same vessel!
  • Referral to other sub-specialities within orthopedics such as Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy or Vestibular Physiotherapy if needed.
  • Specific exercises, activity and self-management as cornerstones of plan. There should be no mystery about your homework.
  • Education. You need to understand what is happening and why.
  • For persistent or chronic concerns, expect your Physiotherapist to take a slow, steady approach as some systems are sensitive.
  • Uses hands-on skills to increase movement, strength, flexibility, stability and coordination. Specific hands-on skills (Spinal Manipulation, IMS, Acupuncture or Dry Needling and Massage to name a few). These help create a window for specific exercises to strengthen.
  • Expect your Physiotherapist to consult scientific research to help guide your treatment. If you happen to overhear “I read a really interesting paper last night on shoulder impingement” look at that as an excellent sign.
  • Encourages mindfulness, relaxation and mindful movement.

Bottom line: You can have a room full of excellent, top notch Physiotherapists, and the right one is the one you form a good alliance with, does ongoing education and enjoys their job immensely. Oh, and did I mention you want them to give you specific exercises?

At Fifth Ave Physiotherapy, we are a CAMPT certified* group and we are happy to answer questions about these recommendations. Just contact us at info@fifthavephysio.com

Diane Roylance
PT BSc (Zool), BScPT, FCAMPT, cGunnIMS
Member of the College of Physiotherapists of Alberta and Canadian Physiotherapy Association

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