What is Physiotherapy?

By Bill Mackay

Physiotherapy is a multi-faceted profession whose aim is to encourage and support the return to normal following illness, surgery, disease or trauma.

This is often described as ‘rehabilitation’. So whether your problem is a sprained ankle, back pain, sports injury, stroke, chest problem, injury at work or many other different conditions, there will be a physiotherapist at Witty, Pask & Buckingham to help you get better.


There are still a few people who see the physiotherapist as a cross between a physical training instructor and a masseuse whose main forms of treatment are the ubiquitous heat lamp and massage.

This image is a traditional one stemming from the beginnings of the profession in 1894 when it was called “The Society of Trained Masseuses”.  The founders of this society believed in a therapy, which at that time was in disrepute and so they got together “to make massage a safe, clean and honourable profession by British women”.  In those days, houses of ill repute carried on under the name of massage establishments, to the detriment of massage for medical conditions.  Although such places may still exist and meet a demand, the efforts of the Society’s founders to counteract that early image, and the principles and standards which they have set, have resulted in our present and vastly changed Profession having little problem in that sense.


Since 1992, with the introduction of an all-graduate profession, Physiotherapists study full-time for three or four years in University. During this time they complete over 1,000 hours of clinical practice in a number of different specialities. It is possible to train in part-time programmes, however this is less common. After this initial period of training, physiotherapists usually work in a general hospital within the NHS to gain experience. Following that they may then specialise in an area of their choice, for example in sports injuries.  They may also wish to continue working within the NHS or alternatively, private practice.


Physiotherapists are involved in a wide range of care. Common complaints treated by Physiotherapists include:

  • Spinal problems – including prolapsed discs, degeneration, sciatica, lumbago, stiff/painful neck and referred arm and leg pains
  • Joint problems – arthritis, injury, pain and swelling, stiffness in joints
  • Injuries – to muscles ligaments, cartilage and tendons. Work related conditions such as repetitive strain injury (RSI) and sports injuries
  • After surgery – rehabilitation after orthopaedic surgery e.g. hip and knee replacements or general physiotherapy after general surgery
  • Fractures – treatment to increase the healing rate and gain full function once the bones have healed
  • Abdominal problems – such as spastic colon, colitis and irritable bowel syndrome (this is not our speciality)
  • Gynaecological conditions – including stress incontinence, salpingitis and post-surgery rehabilitation
  • Obstetrics – including ante and post-natal classes/exercise/relaxation/advice and treatment for back pain during pregnancy
  • Chest conditions – both medical and surgical including hay fever, asthma and sinusitis, pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, emphysema, bronchitis and bronchiectasis. (This is not our speciality)
  • Neurological conditions – such as strokes, head injuries, nerve injuries, multiple sclerosis, shingles, cerebral palsy and ME
  • Paediatrics – for childhood conditions including postural and walking problems
  • Circulatory problems – such as Raynaud’s disease, wounds, ulcers and cardiac rehabilitation

Physiotherapists will not only treat the problem but, by spending time with the patient, will often be able to show the patient how to minimise the impact of their problem and to help prevent recurrence.

Physiotherapists have many different treatment techniques at their disposal including manipulation and mobilisation, massage, hydrotherapy, exercise programmes, electrotherapy (e.g. ultrasound) and  acupuncture. Reassurance and education about a problem also gives patients the confidence to get back to normal activities quickly and safely.


The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)   The Health and Care Professions Council is the regulatory body for many health professions. Under current law only qualified people registered with the Health and Care Professions Council as Physiotherapists are allowed to use the title of ‘Physiotherapist’. It is, therefore, important, that you choose a Physiotherapist who is HCPC Registered and you can do this by logging on to the HCPC Register at www.hcpc-uk.org/check/ .

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP)   The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is the professional, educational and trade union body of the UK’s 47,000 Chartered Physiotherapists, physiotherapy students and assistants.  All Chartered Physiotherapists are bound by the Society’s Rules of Professional Conduct and Standards of Physiotherapy Practice in addition to the Health Professions Council’s Standards, regardless of whether they work within the public or private sector.

All of the Physiotherapists at Witty, Pask & Buckingham are both HCPC Registered and members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.  Furthermore, in order to maintain currency in their chosen profession, they regularly attend external and in-house training courses for their continuing professional development.


Your Physiotherapist will first take a detailed history of your condition together with any relevant past medical history.

A physical assessment will then be undertaken to determine the clinical diagnosis of your problem. After that, your physiotherapist will discuss with you a proposed treatment plan and will give you an estimate as to the length of treatment required and the proposed outcome of your treatment.

The initial assessment will probably last up to 40 minutes and subsequent treatment sessions will be of the same duration.  You will be afforded every opportunity to ask questions about your condition and you will be given advice concerning its management and future prevention.