Is Your Back In Safe Hands? How To Pick the Right Physiotherapist

With the mushrooming of physiotherapy clinics at every corner, how do you zero in on the right one? 

Updated24 Jun 2016, 10:49 AM IST
Fit
5 min read

Do these scenarios sound familiar?
1) If you wake up one morning and nothing hurts, you’d think you’re dead.
2) Your medicine kit is a who’s who of muscle relaxants and painkillers.
3) You can pretty much read your own x-ray.

Neck and back pains are an unwelcome but universal truth of our desk-bound existence.

The staggering numbers of ‘desk-sitters disease’ has led to the mushrooming of physiotherapists, acupuncture, acupressure experts, chiropractitioners. They are all over - on their scooters, apps, clinics, hospitals, every lane, every crossroad, charging a bomb for cracking your neck, teasing your back, and stretching your shoulders.

But you’ve got just one body - you can’t try everyone and everything just because you’re ailing, so how do you decide whether you’re in safe hands or not?

Also Watch: Your Complete Guide To Picking the Right Physiotherapist

Finding the Right Physiotherapist Manual 101

Mostly the first episode of back pain will go away in a week. Ramping up your lifestyle -standing, fidgeting, sauntering, will make sure it doesn’t strike back. But for most people such an overhaul doesn’t happen (Photo: iStock altered by The Quint)
Mostly the first episode of back pain will go away in a week. Ramping up your lifestyle -standing, fidgeting, sauntering, will make sure it doesn’t strike back. But for most people such an overhaul doesn’t happen (Photo: iStock altered by The Quint)

Doctors say, if you’ve had a exhaustive episode of neck or lower back pain, 75% of times the episode will reoccur within a year. The regular bouts set off a ‘spinal decline’.

Rule 1: The Assessment

(Photo: The Quint/Nikita Mishra)
(Photo: The Quint/Nikita Mishra)
Your first session with a physiotherapist was a quick chat, a crack in the back and then you were packed away? Never return. Doctors say that the first physical therapy session should always be at a reputed hospital with a good physiotherapy department. 

Physical therapy is never a guarantee of complete recovery, as discouraging as it sounds, if your physiotherapist is not expert enough to do a thorough investigation of your aches and pains, lay out a treatment plan, discuss at home exercises, then it’s time to change the fellow.

Verdict: Scientific sleuthing in the first session is sacrosanct, it will help the expert get to the root of the problem. At the end of the first meeting if your gut says you’ve met a physioquack, don’t continue with the scam.

Rule 2: Go To a Reputed Hospital With a Good Physio Department

(Photo: The Quint/Nikita Mishra)
(Photo: The Quint/Nikita Mishra)

If you had to get a heart operation done, you would choose the best. Of course physical therapy and a heart ailment aren’t the same but both are critical and can’t be left at the mercy of a quack. So just because the neighbourhood clinic is offering physiotherapy does not mean you will get good care over there.

Verdict: Repeat after me, proximity has nothing to do with skill.

Rule 3: Don’t Get Duped - Ask Questions, Discuss Area Of Expertise

(Photo: The Quint/Nikita Mishra)
(Photo: The Quint/Nikita Mishra)
Trained physiotherapists study as much as junior doctors - they do a four-and-a-half-years course at a recognised college registered under the Indian Association of Physiotherapists (IAP) followed by six months of rigorous training and a two years masters course. It’s hard for a lay person to make the distinction between a well qualified physiotherapist and a quack ready to crack you up after a one-year diploma.

So the best you can do is:

1) If the expert sounds dicey, like they’re doing a hit and trial with your spine, they probably are.

2) Go to a big hospital you or your close ones trust - they would have looked through the degrees and the skill-sets of their physio staff before employing.

Verdict: Sumita Yadav who heads the physiotherapy department at Mumbai’s Wockhardt hospital sums it up perfectly:

“How can a diploma holder master the human body in a year which we do in 6 to 7 years? Going to a diploma holder is as good as going to a quack”.

Rule 4: Research, Research & Research

(Photo: The Quint/Nikita Mishra)
(Photo: The Quint/Nikita Mishra)

Take your time, Google the physiotherapist’s name, quiz them about their area of expertise and find out the word of mouth on the street about them. Also ask your orthopedic for a reference.

Verdict: Beware of the spinal trap - physiotherapy can do serious harm to your body if he’s ill-trained. Don’t use an app to call the most convenient person available especially if your problem is critical.

Rule 5: Complimentary Therapies Like Acupuncture, Acupressure, Hot Stones Are Not For Serious Medical Issues

(Photo: The Quint/Nikita Mishra)
(Photo: The Quint/Nikita Mishra)

Principle At Play: Acupressure or acupuncture are ancient Chinese therapies which divert the flow of ‘Chi’ to cure all illnesses.

Does It Work? Your doctor will tell you that it might have its benefits for sore feet, relaxation, releasing tension, enhancing energy but for serious medical issues, like arthritis or spondylitis, it’s pure baloney.

Verdict: I know a really loud Mrs X who tells me her acupressure therapist ‘really sorts her out’, yet she goes back there so often that I wonder - a drug peddler would sort me out, doesn’t mean it’s money well spent.

Rule 6: Think About Your Own Safety

Complain to the Indian Association of Physiotherapy (IAP) if you’ve been a victim of a quack and undertrained therapist (Photo: The Quint/Nikita Mishra)
Complain to the Indian Association of Physiotherapy (IAP) if you’ve been a victim of a quack and undertrained therapist (Photo: The Quint/Nikita Mishra)

Beware if your physiotherapist promotes bogus side-treatments, promises to cure anything or it feels like they are looking for repeat business from you. If your therapist hasn’t really understood the root of your problem in a couple of sessions, they are probably doing a trial and error on your body to generate ideas.

Not cool!

In case you are a victim of wrong treatment or an ill-qualified, negligent physiotherapist, you can file a case in the consumer court or bring the matter to the Indian Association of Physiotherapy’s notice.

(Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor on medical advise once aches and pains start )

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Published: 21 Jun 2016, 12:42 PM IST

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