Explore different physiotherapy specialities – Part 1

December 5, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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A student learning from her mentor on the wards A physiotherapist provides specialised services that help improve mobility, limit or prevent permanent physical disabilities, restore function and relieve pain in patients with injuries or disease. Patients may include accident victims and individuals with disabling conditions such as arthritis, fractures, low back pain, cerebral palsy, head injuries and heart disease.

Some of the job functions of a physiotherapist include:

Taking the patient’s history

Conducting a systems review

Performing tests and measures such as balance and coordination, strength, motor function, range of motion, muscle performance and posture to identify existing and potential problems. The results of these tests will help the physiotherapist determine the diagnosis and develop a plan of care to achieve the required results.

Part of the plan of care involves determining the patient’s ability to be independent and reintegrate into the community or workplace after illness or injury.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in this speciality, it is important to know that this position can be more physically demanding than most other positions in the healthcare field. During the course of your job as a physiotherapist, you will often have to lift, stoop, crouch, stand, kneel and bend for long periods as you help patients walk, turn or go from sitting to standing. Depending on the circumstances, you may also be required to lift patients as well as heavy equipment.

Working conditions

Physiotherapists practice in a variety of settings ranging from schools, sports and fitness facilities, work settings and home health agencies to hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, private offices and outpatient clinics.

Within physiotherapy, there are several areas that you can choose to specialise in.

Cardiopulmonary physiotherapy

Cardiopulmonary physiotherapists help patients who have been diagnosed with cardiopulmonary disorders as well as those who have recently had heart or lung surgery.

Some of the common conditions you will encounter in this speciality include chronic heart failure, hypertension, bronchitis and pulmonary fibrosis.


Orthopaedic physiotherapists help individuals with chronic conditions to improve their mobility and become more independent. They also work with those who require rehabilitation post-surgery. As part of your job function, you will administer an array of treatment options ranging from simple hot and cold pack applications to more complex joint mobilisations.

Injuries or diseases of the musculoskeletal system are the most common diagnoses encountered in this speciality.

Sports physiotherapy

As a sports physiotherapist you will usually work with athletes and sports persons. Your job will involve helping these individuals prevent injuries and also preparing their bodies for maximum physical exertion. While most of your patients are essentially healthy to start with, you will also treat patients who have suffered any type of sports-related injuries. You will often find yourself having to recommend performance enhancing or rehabilitative equipment along with tips on how to improve performance and reduce sports injuries.

Common conditions encountered in this speciality include knee injuries, acute and chronic injuries, compartment syndrome and shoulder injuries.

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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives, and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.