How do you choose a Physio? – a guest blog by Chris Cameron (part 1)

January 30, 2018

My blog is now so famous I’m getting offers of guest blogs from international writers! While technically true, it’s a good example of how physios and other health professionals can present information to give a distorted picture of reality. Do they not know, or do they not care? Either way I have no time for it. Your health is too important to waste on subpar therapy. But, how do you tell?

Over to Chris, who we welcomed for a few weeks in January, to give you some advice on making an informed choice.

As a student of the University of Melbourne’s Doctor of Physiotherapy program, I was able to choose a clinic anywhere in the world to do a 3 week placement during my last year of study. With a near endless number of options to choose from I began scanning website after website to try and narrow down where I wanted to go, finally deciding on Newcastle Performance Physiotherapy.

Attending physiotherapy back home in Canada for my own athletic injuries over many years and during my studies here, I’ve been exposed to a range of physio practices spanning from good, to bad, to quite frankly ugly. My experiences allowed me to very clearly understand which qualities I was and wasn’t looking for in a clinic, making my decision quick and easy once I found the right one. The goal of this series is to pass this ability on to you. With all the available options for physiotherapy these days, to most it seems like a shot in the dark figuring out where to go and how to determine if you’re receiving quality care. With an understanding of a few things to look for, you’ll at least have a little light to guide the way.

Part 1: Active therapy vs Passive therapy

What you do with your physiotherapist once you start a session be loosely divided into active and passive treatment.

Active treatment is anything that requires you to engage either mentally or physically and includes
-any form of exercise (including visualization exercises) or movement
-engaging in a dialogue with the therapist

Passive treatment is anything that does not require you to engage, including
-pushing, prodding, poking, massaging
-passive stretching
-anything with flashing lights, gels or wires
-being talked at in a one-sided conversation

Now, just from my descriptions you can probably guess which treatments I value most and where my biases lie. But wait one second! Just because a physiotherapist is using some form of passive therapy, doesn’t mean you should run for the door. Often times these passive treatments can do wonders for temporarily relieving pain, getting someone to relax, or even as educational demonstrations, and these things definitely have value!

These passive treatments are like band aid solutions. They won’t change a whole lot but if they feel good, great! The active treatment is where you need to put in the most effort as a client, but also where the more lasting changes take place. They can help your bodies and beliefs to gradually adapt for the better, which is hard, but is what we’re after!

When deciding on a physiotherapist, aim to find one that gives you the tools to be an active participant in your rehab rather than a spectator along for the ride.