Physiotherapy alias physical therapy, one of the fastest-growing allied area of medicine, is the system of treatment of disease and disability using physical exercises. It is the most important rehabilitative service needed in a community and a vital therapeutic supplement of the medical profession, integral to the treatment of most patients.
Physiotherapy may be defined as a science that seeks to improve movement dysfunction, promote optimal health and functions of the human body. Physiotherapy helps in optimal functioning of the body. It involves the assessment, maintenance, restoration of the physical function and performance of the body and is strongly recommended for people with degenerative disorders, the physically challenged, sportspeople and those suffering from arthritis and neurological disorders. This preventive and remedial procedure is very often used as a supplement with oral medicines. It could also include heat radiation, water therapy, massages, diathermy, traction and other procedures.
Physiotherapists are as essential as doctors in helping recover and rehabilitate a patient from a state of incapacity, due to genetic defect or the result of an accident or an illness. They must have a thorough knowledge of the human anatomy and the way the bones, muscles and nerves move. Physiotherapists treat a wide range of ailments, so specialisation is possible in areas such as pediatrics, geriatrics, orthopedics, sports physical therapy, neurology, clinical electrophysiologic and cardiopulmonary therapy.
The job of a physiotherapist, which is preventive, restorative and rehabilitative, is challenging but lucrative at the same time. They are qualified to perform a history and physical examination, conduct assessments to determine a diagnosis process, select appropriate physical therapy interventions to treat the dysfunction, and monitor the effectiveness of treatment. Physiotherapists use various therapeutic intervention techniques to treat a patient. Some of the them are Manual Therapy, TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation used to control pain), Ultrasound Technique, Electrical Muscle Stimulation, Manipulation, Acupuncture etc. Although the work of a physiotherapist may tend to be physically very strenuous as it involves physically lifting and supporting patients, their profession brings with it much satisfaction, since it involves relieving patients of pain and helping them recover from specific physical ailments.
Students with a science background can opt for a career in physiotherapy. To become a practicing physiotherapist or be employed as a professional in a hospital or clinic, one should have a B.Sc. degree or a diploma in physiotherapy. One could also go in for postgraduation.
The basic eligibility for courses in physiotherapy is 10+2 passed or equivalent examination with physics, chemistry, biology and English. At least 50% of marks should be secured in each of these subjects. Age limit for the candidates is 17 years.
Selection: The admission to institutes is through entrance examination. There is a Common Entrance Test (CET) for the course in Bachelor of Physiotherapy (BPT). Admission is based mainly on CET scores.
Durations: There are both degree level and short-term courses available in physiotherapy but all of them may not be recognised by the government. Degree level courses in physiotherapy generally range from 3 to 4 years while short-term courses may be between 3 months to a year. For a Degree Level course, the last six months involves an internship period at a hospital.
The courses are designed to give the students a basic understanding of the human body, based on medical sciences, training in understanding the procedures for therapy and the related skill training. The course contents include anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, psychology, medical and surgical conditions, biomechanics, kineseology, disability prevention, rehabilitation and other subjects. A major part of the course work is practical in nature including an internship period where students work under the supervision of professionals at various hospitals and institutions.
Personal Attributes: Excellent interpersonal skills are necessary for the job of a physiotherapist because it is very people oriented. To be a good physiotherapist, one needs an above average analytical and logical reasoning skill, scientific reasoning and problem solving skill, ability to memorize and recall scientific facts, manual dexterity and physical stamina to work long hours, patience and understanding of people, a sympathetic approach towards the patients, a keen desire to help people live their normal lives, must be level headed to deal with emergencies in work conditions, strength of mind and purpose, team spirit, good observation power, ability to instill confidence and courage in patients.These attributes together with a thorough knowledge of the human anatomy are the makings of a successful physiotherapist. The work demands an organised and systematic way of working. Working as per the directions of doctors, keeping record of the work done and technical precision are important in the profession.
Employment opportunities for physiotherapists are tremendous as it is a career where the demand exceeds supply. A physiotherapist could be employed in the rehabilitation departments, municipal corporations and private bodies. Their demand in medical institutions is increasing since physiotherapy plays an important role in the treatment of patients with muscular and cerebral problems. Like all other medical and paramedical professionals, physiotherapists can work in hospitals, orthopaedic departments, rehabilitation centres for the handicapped, schools for the mentally retarded and physically disabled children, health institutions and defense medical establishments. Physiotherapists can also opt for teaching, while those with adequate capital can establish private clinics of their own.
The demand for physiotherapists in the country as well as abroad is immense. They are in great demand in USA, Canada and Australia
The initial remuneration of physiotherapists in government hospitals varies between Rs. 3000 to 5000. But the private hospitals offer a relatively better package. Most well-run private hospitals offer a starting salary around Rs 7,500 which could go up to Rs 10,000 per month. The remuneration for established private practitioners can be almost Rs 20,000 to 40,000 per month.
Some hospitals also pay the physiotherapists according to the number of patients he/she sees. Most physiotherapists, after gaining an experience of around five years, could start their own practices, in which case, they charge according to the number of hours given to individual patients, usually around Rs. 250 to 400 per sitting.