PHYSIOTHERAPISTS HELP people affected by injury, illness or disability through movement and exercise, manual therapy, education and advice. They maintain health for people of all ages, helping patients to manage pain and prevent disease.

The profession helps to encourage development and facilitate recovery, enabling people to stay in work while helping them remain independent for as long as possible.

Shanique Stewart became a physiotherapist in 2018 after completing a three-year bachelor of science degree, and passing her final professional examination and one year of internship.

Being a physiotherapist, she said, involves assessing and treating patients, from neonates/premature babies to older adults with a wide range of conditions. “As physiotherapists, we are licensed medical professionals. Our responsibilities include assessing patients and designing mainly exercise-based treatments for a range of conditions,” Stewart said.

There are several specialty areas of practice, she said, including cardiopulmonary, neuromuscular, amputations, orthopaedics, pelvic health, wound care, paediatrics, sports physiotherapy, and geriatrics.

“Our duties also often include educating patients on their conditions, liaising with medical professionals, preparing reports, statistics and often presenting new research or developments as a means of continuing our education. I can think of many tasks that a physiotherapist does but it just depends on what the problem is,” Stewart said.

Physiotherapists she said, use techniques such as aerobic exercise to improve cardiovascular function, strengthening exercises, airway clearance and breathing techniques for respiratory conditions, stretches, manual therapy, joint manipulations and postural correction.

“We also practise techniques to stimulate damaged or dysfunctional nerves, such as electrical stimulation, among others and we offer pain management modalities such as using heat, ice, therapeutic ultrasound, infrared light therapy, among others, depending on the need,” Stewart said.

A past student of the Immaculate Conception High School, Stewart’s interest in physiotherapy piqued after her chance encounter with a physiotherapist during her final year at high school. She is now on her way to completing a doctor of physical therapy degree. Her major objective is to establish herself as one of Jamaica’s finest geriatric physical therapists.

Physiotherapy is a science-based profession and takes a whole-person approach to health and well-being, which includes the patient’s general lifestyle.

At the core is the patient’s involvement in their own care, through education, awareness, empowerment and participation in their treatment. You can benefit from physiotherapy at any time in your life. Physiotherapy helps with back pain or sudden injury, managing long-term medical condition such as asthma, and in preparing for childbirth or a sporting event.

Some ailments or illnesses that a physiotherapist would treat include, but are not limited to, osteoarthritis, muscular dystrophy, stroke, amputations, Guillian-Barre Syndrome, traumatic brain injury, COPD, pneumonia, scoliosis, Bell’s Palsy, burns rehab, post-fractures, pain, cancer, athletic injuries, paraplegia, hemiplegia, and postural abnormalities.

“We also help to correct postural abnormalities, do airway clearance techniques to assist patients with respiratory and chest conditions, offer massages to improve lymphatic drainage in post-op patients, restore movement to stiff joints, assist children with developmental delays, for example, we may work with cerebral palsy children to help them walk and improve motor skills,” Stewart said.

Your session with a physiotherapist will be unique, because it is all about you and your particular needs. In general, here is what happens: The physiotherapist learns about your medical history, the physiotherapist assesses and diagnoses your condition, you receive a treatment plan that sets goals for you and you are prescribed a course of exercises and any assistive devices needed.

“As a physiotherapist, my favourite aspect of the job is the interpersonal interaction. My goal is therefore to gain my patients’ trust while I guide them to overcome their obstacles and achieve a high success rate on their rehab journeys and beyond,” Stewart said.

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