How will a Musculo-Skeletal Physiotherapist help me?

A Musculo-Sketetal physiotherapist (known as an MSK physiotherapist) works with problems of the muscle-skeletal system. This may be in treating pain, stiffness, lack of function or other less obvious problems like headaches which can be referred from a stiff neck or a knee which gives way due to cartilage damage.

The physiotherapist will start their assessment with the patients subjective description of the problem, for example the history of the problem, how the pain behaves and the patients other medical history which may have a bearing on the current problem. All of this gives clues to the nature of the problem and how it may be helped. The way the patient describes the problem and even the way the patient moves around the clinic will all be observed and used in the physiotherapists assessment. 

The patient's everyday life also places demands on the body. So it is important for your physio to understand if your job involves sitting at a desk for eight hours per day and if you want to take part in triathlons at the weekends. 

The physiotherapist will then proceed to a physical (or objective) examination of the problem. The patient is likely to be asked to demonstrate movement or lack of it, strength and flexibility of muscles and soft tissues and the physiotherapist will use joint specific tests and palpation to further identify the problem. The physiotherapist then has a “clinical impression” of the problem and will discuss with the patient what type of treatment is likely to help. 

Typically the physiotherapist will have a range of treatments or modalities that they can use to help you including “hands on” techniques of mobilisation, manipulation or massage. Physios also commonly use ultrasound, strapping, exercises, etc.

The physiotherapist will expect to work with the patient as many conditions will only get better with the compliance of the patient. So the patient should expect to be given information about their condition, advice about self-help, exercises, stretches and even advice on whether it may be important to rest or not. 

In conclusion, an MSK physio will help you by assessing the problem both from your description and by physically testing the body. This will produce a clinical impression of what is wrong and then discuss with you how you are going to work on the problem together. 

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