CPD

Which Type of Physiotherapy is Best?

Dr. Carl Clarkson
Dr. Carl Clarkson June 27, 2022
Women doing Physiotherapy

As healthcare professionals in other disciplines, or as student Physiotherapists, you may have wondered if one type of Physiotherapy is better than others, or if it’s worth referring clients to a specific type of Physiotherapy over others. In this article, we go into detail about the different Physiotherapy specialisms, the conditions that they are commonly used to treat, and the different therapies associated with them.

So, which type of Physiotherapy is best? There isn’t one type of Physiotherapy that is inherently better than the others; each type is tailored towards specific conditions or groups of society, making them the best option for those individuals and their circumstances. However, Orthopaedics is the most common type of Physiotherapy. 

Read on to learn more about the different types of Physiotherapy.

Which Type of Physiotherapy is Most Effective?

The most commonly used type of physiotherapy is Orthopaedic Physiotherapy, largely treating musculoskeletal injuries and conditions. However, there are a number of different types of Physiotherapy, and determining which one is the most effective depends on what a client is being treated for. For example, Orthopaedic Physiotherapy will only be effective on musculoskeletal conditions, and Neurological Physiotherapy will only be effective for neurological conditions. 

Meanwhile, whilst other types of Physiotherapy could be suitable in each case, specialist Geriatric and Paediatric Physiotherapies will be most effective for the elderly and children respectively as techniques are tailored to the delicate and ever-changing nature of young and old bodies.

Below we detail the different types of Physiotherapy, both as a reference for healthcare professionals, for students beginning their Physiotherapy journeys, and for those looking to specialise. 

What are the Different Specialisms in Physiotherapy?

Below you’ll find a number of common Physiotherapy specialisms, what conditions they work best for, and techniques that may be used.

Orthopaedic

Orthopaedic Physiotherapy is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of conditions related to the musculoskeletal system. This includes bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, and connective tissue, and may be a great treatment option for conditions such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Back, elbow, neck, and foot pain
  • Recovery from surgery and joint replacements
  • Injury rehabilitation
  • Chronic pain
  • Recovery from falls, fractures and breaks
  • Osteoporosis
  • Scoliosis

Techniques that may be used in Orthopaedic Physiotherapy include both passive modalities, where the Physiotherapist gives the client a treatment, and active modalities, where the client performs or participates in a movement. Such activities may include, but are not limited to:

  • Hot and cold therapy
  • Exercise and movement therapies
  • Electrical stimulation (TENS or NMES)
  • Traction
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Soft tissue manipulation
  • Joint mobilisation
  • Kinesiology taping

With such a variety of treatments available in Orthopaedic Physiotherapy, this specialism has great potential for treating a number of different musculoskeletal conditions and injuries, however, it could only be determined to be the best type of Physiotherapy for adults afflicted with musculoskeletal conditions. 

Neurological

Neurological Physiotherapy is tailored towards neurological conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord or peripheral nerves, such as Cerebral Palsy, Dementia, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinsons, amongst others. Often, clients with neurological conditions struggle with mobility, muscle strength, range of movement and balance.

To help treat these conditions and individual problem, Physiotherapists can perform or recommend treatments such as:

  • Tapping
  • Brushing
  • Cryotherapy-brief
  • Passive stretching
  • Joint compression
  • Vibration
  • Vestibular stimulation
  • Positioning

Whilst clients with neurological conditions may require some level of orthopaedic therapy to help their musculoskeletal system, Neurological Physiotherapy may be the best type of Physiotherapy for them as treatments are specifically tailored to accommodate and benefit their individual needs by specialist Physiotherapists.

Cardiovascular and Pulmonary

Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Physiotherapy, also known as Cardiorespiratory Physiotherapy, is a Physiotherapy specialism concerned with both the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Specifically, Cardiorespiratory Physiotherapy aims to help symptoms such as shortness of breath, persistent coughs, or the reduced ability to exercise associated with conditions including:

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Asthma
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Bronchitis
  • Emphysema
  • Congestive Cardiac Failure (CCF)
  • Respiratory infections
  • Hypertension
  • Peripheral Vascular Disease
  • Angina
  • Heart attack 
  • Recovery from heart or lung surgery

Physiotherapists may choose to utilise techniques including breathing techniques, breathing facilitation exercises, percussions and vibrations, coughing and breathing strategies, circulation exercises, mobility assistance and aids, bed, chair and standing exercises, and ongoing fitness programmes.

For clients with respiratory or cardiovascular problems, Cardiorespiratory Physiotherapy will be the best type of Physiotherapy to help with their individual issues, however, some techniques from Orthopaedic Physiotherapy, such as exercise and strength training, may also be used here.

Geriatric

The aim of Geriatric Physiotherapy is to restore or enhance mobility, functional capability, and improve clients’ general quality of life. This could be either as a preventative measure, as part of managing a condition, or as rehabilitation. 

Conditions in which Geriatric Physiotherapy may be used include, but is not limited to:

  • Mobility issues
  • Rehabilitation from injuries and falls
  • Rehabilitation from surgeries and joint replacements
  • Osteoporosis
  • Arthritis

In order to help such conditions, Physiotherapists may utilise techniques such as exercises, massage, heat and cold treatments, TENS, hydrotherapy, flexibility work, endurance training, and education. Often, Physiotherapists will simply assess a condition and recommend small changes to help aid mobility and functionality. 

It goes without saying that Geriatric Physiotherapy is the best type of Physiotherapy for elderly clients. Treatments are tailored to age-related conditions, and are also adjusted to accommodate mobility, frailty, and endurance issues.

Paediatric

Paediatric Physiotherapy is solely concerned with the treatment of children across Orthopaedic, Neurological, Cardiorespiratory, Genetic, and other types of Physiotherapy. The main aim of Paediatric Physiotherapy is to aid the development of children and improve their quality of life. 

Specialist Child Physiotherapists treat a wide range of paediatric conditions, from musculoskeletal disorders, to developmental disorders, neurological conditions, and genetic conditions. Common conditions include Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and Developmental Delay. 

Treatments that may be used in Paediatric Physiotherapy include:

  • Stretching
  • Activity modifications
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Postural management
  • Electrical Stimulation 
  • Dynamic Movement
  • Intervention Therapy (DMI)
  • Whole Body Vibration
  • Flexi Bounce Therapy
  • Treadmill Therapy
  • Hydrotherapy

Whilst Orthopaedic, Neurological, and other types of Physiotherapy could help with such conditions, Paediatric Physiotherapy is best suited for children as Physiotherapists are specially trained to handle the intricacies of paediatric care, especially since this covers ages 0-18 where children’s bodies change and develop so quickly.

Alternative Treatments to Physiotherapy

Sometimes, traditional Physiotherapy isn’t necessarily the best, or only, treatment option. There are a wide range of other therapies which can be just as beneficial as Physiotherapy, and often compliment Physiotherapy very well. 

Acupuncture

Acupuncture and dry needling treatments are well known for their ability to aid a wide range of conditions, especially musculoskeletal conditions. As healthcare professionals, Physiotherapists are well placed to learn safe and effective acupuncture, which not only provides alternative treatments to clients, but also provides a way to expand practice offerings and potentially increase revenue. 

Learn more about acupuncture and dry needling for Physiotherapists with Breeze Academy, one of the UK’s leading CPD providers for healthcare professionals.

Massage Therapy

Another great therapy that Physiotherapists can utilise is massage therapy, particularly in cases of sports injuries and other musculoskeletal issues. Sports massage therapy in particular is a great way to treat or manage conditions such as sciatica, chronic or long-term pain, and joint and mobility issues.

Learn more about how to train in sports massage therapy with Breeze Academy.

Clinical Yoga

Yoga can be a great gentle exercise for Physiotherapy clients, encouraging movement, stretching, strength, and balance, helping a wide range of conditions that you may see in your clinic. 

Learn more about how clinical yoga could benefit your Physiotherapy practice today.

Final Thoughts

There isn’t one inherently better type of Physiotherapy; which type of Physiotherapy is best for a client depends on their individual circumstances, needs, and age. What’s more, just because one type of Physiotherapy suits a client best doesn’t mean that there aren’t alternative treatments and therapies which could either be better than, or enhance Physiotherapy. 

CPD is a great way for Physiotherapists to explore these alternative therapies which offer the potential to expand their knowledge, skills, and practice offerings, resulting in better treatment. You can learn more about CPD for Physiotherapists in our recent blog, or by getting in touch with our friendly team who can guide you through our range of CPD courses and help you choose one that’s right for you.

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