When an injury occurs, it can sometimes be hard to know where to turn. Should I go see my doctor? A friend told me about his osteopath, should I go to see her first or should I go consult in physiotherapy as my brother advised me to? In fact, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between all health professionals and determine who to consult in the first place . This text aims to demystify the role of certain health care professionals, such as physiotherapists and physical rehabilitation therapists, chiropractors , osteopaths , massage therapists and acupuncturists .
Physiotherapy is a healthcare discipline dealing with disability following an injury or a disease affecting various body systems. Whether it concerns muscles, bones, joints, nervous system or the cardiorespiratory system, physiotherapists are trained to work with you and help you regain proper function. The goal of physical therapy is to maximize the patient’s rehabilitation potential to increase physical ability and function. Among the available physiotherapist tools to achieve this goal we find manual techniques, exercises and modalities such as electrotherapy, hydrotherapy and thermotherapy (ice, heat).
For several years , physiotherapists have become frontline healthcare professionals, that is to say, it is not necessary to have a doctor’s referral to consult in physiotherapy (1). So, when should you go to a physical therapist? Once an injury or pain occurs in one of the systems listed above, the physiotherapist will be able to perform a full assessment and develop an appropriate treatment plan. If necessary, the physiotherapist will advise you to consult a GP or a specialist.
Physical rehabilitation therapists
Often patients are assessed by the physiotherapist, but treated by a physical rehabilitation technician (PRT). What is a PRT and why isn’t the physiotherapist doing all the treatments? According to the physiotherapy clinic with which you do business, it is likely that you and the physiotherapist assesses the PRT continues the interventions part with you. The PRT is formed at the college level and therefore has a technician in physiotherapy. He or she is trained to treat different conditions assessed by the physiotherapist. Meanwhile, the physiotherapist has a master’s degree and his focus is more at the assessment level. Working in teams, both professional can then give you a full range of treatments tailored to your condition.
Osteopathy is a technique also interested in the human body function. Using a manual approach osteopathy aims to give optimum mobility to bones, muscles, fascias, nerves and organs. This mobility restores balance to the body and relieves the symptoms of the patient. Preventive as well as curative , it serves all age groups (2).
The osteopath uses his hands to assess, diagnose and treat different musculoskeletal, visceral and cranial conditions. Like the physiotherapist, the osteopath is interested in restoring body function. Used alone or in combination with physiotherapy, osteopathy can come bring new elements in the management of various problems and thus come offer a full range of treatment to patients by helping self-regulation of the body and eliminating barriers to healing. Osteopathy is also a frontline profession.
According to the college of Chiropractors of Quebec, chiropractic is defined as a health discipline that emphasizes the inherent capacity of the human body to stay healthy and to heal without drugs or surgery (homeostasis). It focuses on the relationship between structures ( primarily the spine) and function, as coordinated by the nervous system. According to the principles of chiropractic, this discipline is much curative than preventive and aims to maintain the balance between the column (and other joints) and nervous system.
Like physiotherapists, chiropractors are frontline health care professional. During a chiropractic visit the chiropractor will proceed with a chiropractic examination to understand the nature of the health problem you have, or to take note of your neuromusculoskeletal health . The review typically includes an assessment of your posture, joints movements, orthopedic and neurological evaluation, and research of spinal and joint subluxations (mobility problems or joint alignment). If necessary, the chiropractor can perform chiropractic adjustments or manipulations to improve mobility and/or alignment of the joint (3, 4).
In summary, it is possible to come to advise a chiropractor wide range of neuromusculoskeletal problems.
Experts in relaxation, massage therapists may be the key professionals in the management of some musculoskeletal problems. Indeed, to properly relax the muscles, fascia,and to relax after a big stress, combining the expertise of massage therapists to physiotherapy, chiropractic or osteopathy can be beneficial.
Massage therapists are involved on the human body using manual approaches (to the exclusion of any device), using the hands, feet, elbows and knees in order to prevent disease, improve health and promote autonomy. The massage can have a positive impact on several conditions and factors, such as pain, joint mobility, sleep, anxiety and stress, as well as the general tensions. Like other health professionals, the massage therapist will perform an assessment of your global health status before proceeding with treatment (5).
The acupuncturists college of Quebec defines acupuncture as a traditional oriental method which aims to improve health or relieve pain. Part of traditional oriental medicine methods, acupuncture is based on the relationship between energy and the various components of the human being (physical, emotional, and mental). Using the implementation of needles on particular areas of the skin, subcutaneous tissue or mucous membranes of the human body, called acupoints, the acupuncturist restores the inherent energy and thus treat multiple conditions (6).
Used as a replacement of traditional medicine or as a complementary medicine, the acupuncturist can come help relieve and treat multiple conditions. Indeed, it is even supported by the scientific literature and research that acupuncture is an effective treatment for: rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, neck pain, rhinitis, sciatica , low blood pressure and many other conditions (7).
As for massage therapy, acupuncture can be used alone or in combination with other professional treatments.
Andrée-Anne Lorrain, M.Sc. pht
1 – However, depending on the insurance company, a medical reference might be required for a cost reimbursement.
2 – Source : Ostéopathie Québec, http://osteopathiequebec.ca/losteopathie-pour-tous/
3 – Source : Ordre des chiropraticiens du Québec, http://www.ordredeschiropraticiens.ca/fr/publications/modules-d-information-sur-la-chiropratique-mic/definition-et-historique
4 – Source : Ordre des chiropraticiens du Québec, http://www.ordredeschiropraticiens.ca/fr/consulter-un-chiropraticien/comment-se-deroule-une-premiere-visite
5 – Source : Fédération des massothérapeutes agréés, https://www.fqm.qc.ca/fr/les-bienfaits-de-la-massotherapie
6 – Source : Ordre des acuponcteurs du Québec : http://www.o-a-q.org/fr/acces-public/l-acupuncture/definition.aspx
7 – Source : Ordre des acuponcteurs du Québec : http://www.o-a-q.org/fr/acces-public/l-acupuncture/les-preuves-scientifiques.aspx