Learn about areas of practice in physiotherapy.
What are practice focuses?
Over time and through training, physiotherapists become very familiar with certain conditions and patient populations. Some physiotherapists market themselves in specific areas of practice or may try to outwardly focus their practice. This is what Physio Roots will be calling a practice focus.
The practice focuses were originally derived from the divisions of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association. More will be added as time progresses that may not reflect these divisions.
Are there physiotherapy specialists?
There is no easy way to answer this. Unlike medical doctors, physiotherapists do not move on to take standardized residencies after graduating. For example, after a physiotherapist graduates they can’t take a residency in oncology and become an “oncology physiotherapist.” For the most part, there are no standardized specialist designations as there are in medicine. Hang on though, there are some confusing exceptions to this.
There are physiotherapists who practice in oncology and who know more about treating oncology patients than most other physiotherapists. There are experts within the field of physiotherapy but there is not always a defined standard for their skill set or knowledge, so restraint is used when using the “title” specialist.
There are some standardized certifications within the physiotherapy world that you may see. A Certified Hand Therapist (listed under Advanced Training) is technically a “hand specialist” when it comes to rehabilitation.
There is a movement to recognize physiotherapy specialists. You may see the title “Clinical Specialist” being used. This is a designation set-out by the Canadian Physiotherapy Association to identify leaders in specific practice areas of physiotherapy. To become a Clinical Specialist, you need a pretty good resume. Physiotherapists who spend a substantial part of their career practicing in a specific area, who also may have contributed to research and advancement of the profession, are considered for the Clinical Specialist designation. Unlike a medical residency,, a the Clinical Specialist title seems to only be attainable after a long career of excellence!
As this page is written, the “Clinical Specialist” title has not been fully adopted by all of the provincial physiotherapy colleges, so you may not see it being used..
There are other designations and certifications out there that may imply that a physiotherapist is a specialist in a certain area. The jury is still out on many, because the definition of specialist has not been defined. There is no consensual agreement on what a specialist is within the profession.
The bottom line
People need to find care and they need to find care from therapists whom they are the most likely to get the best treatment from. The intent of the practice focuses section is to do exactly that, help people find the care they deserve.
On Physio Roots, physiotherapists are asked to only choose practice focuses that they’re able to provide the full treatment for. This means when you go to a clinic who chose “Oncology” as their practice focus, you can expect to get the full spectrum of cancer rehabilitation services there.
Some physiotherapists focus their practice to specific conditions, body regions and patient populations. Learn about them all right here!
Physiotherapists practicing animal rehabilitation are trained at evaluating your animal's, bones, joints, muscles and nervous system. They have undergone additional training to learn about animal movement, pathology and anatomy. Their goal is to identify the nature or cause of an injury and provide solutions to relieve pain and restore movement & function.
Cardiorespiratory physiotherapy is the practice of physiotherapy to improve cardiovascular and pulmonary function. It is commonly practiced in hospital settings to treat a variety of conditions that limit oxygen delivery to the blood stream. In acute scenarios, cardiorespiratory physiotherapy can be life saving. The physiological principles of cardiorespiratory physiotherapy are far reaching and can be used to help many different patient populations, from patients with acute and chronic diseases to top-level athletes.
Chronic pain is complex and this short description will not suffice as an explanation. An excellent resource for anyone interested in pain is the book "Explain Pain" by David Butler and Lorimer Moseley. To learn a little bit more about chronic pain, follow the link below.
Physiotherapy forms an integral part of a multi-disciplinary treatment for chronic pain. Most physiotherapists treat chronic pain of various forms on a daily basis. Some therapists choose to take additional education in pain sciences to help them distinguish between variations of chronic pain and to expand their treatment options. Pain sciences is a rapidly growing field and our knowledge of chronic pain has expanded greatly in recent times.
Patients recovering from cancer are faced with a number of secondary complications from cancer and side-effects from cancer treatment. Physiotherapists are in a an excellent position to help patients reduce cancer related fatigue, deconditioning, nerve damage, lymphedema, incontinence and much more.
Orthopaedics is the most common area of practice for physiotherapists. Physiotherapists practicing primarily in orthopaedics are known for using a combination of hands-on skills (manual therapy), treatment modalities (ex. IMS) and exercise to help restore movement, eliminate pain and return their patients to full function. Therapists must have knowledge of orthopaedics in nearly all areas of practice. To understand human movement, having a good foundation in orthopaedics is necessary.
Neonates, infants, children and adolescents can all benefit from physiotherapy. Physiotherapists play a role in the early detection and treatment of health problems including developmental delays as a result of various diseases and disorders. Paediatric physiotherapists work with children and families to maximize participation at school, home and recreational activities.
In the view of Physio Roots, a check-up / screening from a physiotherapist should be as important as a check-up with your doctor, especially for Seniors. Physiotherapy can help patients maintain optimal health & independence and maximize quality of life throughout the aging process. Therapists use valid and reliable tests and measurements which help them to create individualized exercise programs. With proper guidance and some dedication, physiotherapy can help you build and maintain physical resiliency.
Physiotherapists practicing in the area of Women's Health have focused their practice on health issues relevant to women. Pelvic health physiotherapy is a component of Women's Health. Therapists focusing on women's health may or may not provide pelvic health physiotherapy services. For more information, check out the Women's Health Division of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.