Physiotherapy, sometimes called physical therapy or PT, refers to working with a therapist for the manipulation and training of muscles, joints, and the like. This can often help a person get stronger and heal after surgery or an injury. If your doctor has recommended a course of physiotherapy for you, note a few questions you might ask him or her, or the therapist, so you know what's involved and what to expect with your treatment.

How is physiotherapy different from exercise?

Don't think you can just hit the gym or buy a treadmill and get the same benefits as you would with a course of physiotherapy. Regular exercise and losing weight can have health benefits and help with your particular condition, if done safely and under a doctor's care, but physiotherapy is a program designed to target and strengthen certain muscles, joints, and other areas in a specific fashion. This might include manipulating the muscles, massaging the area, strengthening surrounding muscles, and the like.

Very often a therapist works with a patient on the mat on the floor, stretching and bending limbs and joints; they don't simply tell someone to walk or jog or lift weights, like a personal trainer. Not only is this more of a targeted program than standard exercise but it's also safer, as a therapist will know how to monitor a patient's progress, will know how to check for risk of re-injury, and will ensure that a patient doesn't overexert themselves and potentially cause more damage to an affected area.

Is physiotherapy used only after an injury?

You don't need to go through a particular injury to have actually injured an area of your body that needs physiotherapy; for example, certain movements or exercise can cause injuries even if you don't slam your knee against the concrete, twist a joint, and the like. Regular running, the impact of playing tennis or participating in gymnastics, and other such sports can cause microscopic injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. Physiotherapy can help heal these areas.

Back pain due to age, poor posture, overexertion, and other such factors may also be treated with physiotherapy. This therapy can help to strengthen and stretch the muscles of the back safely, and also help a patient learn how to improve their posture and protect their back during everyday activities. If you have any pain or concerns regarding any muscle group, joints, and the like, don't wait for your doctor to prescribe physiotherapy but ask if it might be a solution in your case.