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6 Common Physiotherapy Misconceptions

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

When we ask individuals to explain what physiotherapy is, we will often find different ideas, beliefs, and even misconceptions about what physiotherapy is and how it can be implemented into your medical and health goals.Hopefully we can address some of these misconceptions here!

Misconception 1) - You need a referral to see a physiotherapist

Physiotherapists are qualified primary care practitioners. This means that physiotherapists are expertly trained to evaluate the severity, and diagnose injuries, while understanding your physical needs, and rehabilitation goals. Furthermore if a Physiotherapist identified that you need also need medical attention/alternative management, they will provide you with guidance on what will be best for you going forward.

Misconception 2)- I need a scan

Another very common idea regarding injuries/illness is that a person needs to have a definite diagnosis/ scans to confirm or deny their injury. Quite often there is no need for imaging to be completed in order to achieve optimal outcomes and reach your desired goals. Physiotherapists have a range of techniques and are highly trained to assess your abilities, bodily structures and functioning.

Imaging can present results that are misleading and cause concern that isn’t necessary. Incidental findings ( ie common changes associated with normal use or normal ageing) are common to find on scans in people without pain or injuryHowever, physiotherapists understand at times imaging is necessary and can directly refer you for certain scans and or refer to your GP for scans if appropriate

Misconception 3) Surgery is my only option.

Very often physiotherapy is a safe and effective alternative to surgery. Physiotherapy can help alleviate pain, increase your functioning, and improve your ability to complete your goals and live comfortably day to day.

When surgery is necessary physiotherapy can help you be strong before the surgery, and post operatively. If you are unsure speak with your medical professional about trailing physiotherapy/ exercise rehabilitation.

Misconception 4) Physiotherapy is only helpful for injury rehabilitation

Physiotherapy is not only for injuries, and rehabilitation. Physiotherapists treat a wide variety of injuries, diseases, and dysfunction. A key part of our practice is also in injury prevention and optimising performance in those who are not injured. Some other common areas we treat and assist in management include headaches, neurological disorders, cardiopulmonary diseases, chronic pain, vestibular, vertigo and dizziness problems, pre and post natal issues, women’s/mens health/ continence, peadiatrics, dance assessments and concussion.

Misconception 5) Physiotherapy is painful

A benefit of physiotherapy is pain management. We use a range of techniques to help settle and assist with pain management. The term "no pain, no gain" is not something that aligns with physiotherapists’ beliefs and values or the research evidence. We will always check with you and make sure throughout the course of treatment your pain is controlled and nothing we do will provoke severe, lingering, or persistent pain. Some mild discomfort post manual therapy techniques can occur, but again it should settle quickly and then be associated with improvement in pain and function

Misconception 6) Physiotherapy is just massages and exercises

Physiotherapists use a range of techniques and specialised treatments to assist in your management. These techniques will be guided by your goals, to achieve optimal outcomes for each individual.

Each session will be different, and vary person to person. Goals will include optimising movement patterns, biomechanical control, prevent injury re-occurence, and pain reduction.

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