Physiotherapy Questions

Five Common Physiotherapy Questions, Answered by Physiotherapist, Jennifer Harvey.

As an orthopedic physiotherapist, there are common questions I get from patients. They are all great questions, and because of the frequency I hear them, I thought I would compile a list of the top 5 to answer here!

  1. Do I need to see my doctor before coming to see a physiotherapist?
    • No! Physiotherapist in Ontario are direct health care providers, meaning that you do not need a referral to see a physiotherapist. If during your initial assessment the physiotherapist thinks that you should see your doctor, they will refer you to the appropriate health care provider. It is important to note though, some extended health care plans require a doctor’s referral for physiotherapist in order to be covered by the plan, so it might be a good idea to double check if this applies to you.
  1. How long will this injury take to heal or for my pain go away?
    • This is always a tough question because the answer is mostly likely “it depends” and is variable from person to person! There are so many factors that can contribute to healing and pain, such as previous injuries, lifestyle, nutrition, severity and complexity of the injury. Even your stress levels and the quality/quantity of sleep you are getting can affect healing. If you have a simple strain/sprain, the typical healing timeline of soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons) is around 4-6 weeks. If the injury is more severe/less, then it would typically take longer/shorter. If you have been experiencing pain for longer period of time before seeking treatment, the longer it will take for the pain to improve.
  1. Should I use ice or heat?
    • This question I hear all the time. Unfortunately, there is limited research on what is best. Generally speaking, I recommend ice for pain relief if something is acutely injured (0-3 days post-injury), significantly swollen, and/or red. In this instance ice should be combined with elevation, compression and relative rest for the first few days after injury. Otherwise, I usually recommend heat. Heat physiologically brings blood flow to the area, which in turns helps with healing and also increase tissues extensibility. For more details on icing, check out this ALPHA blog post – “Think Twice before you Ice
  1. Should I stick to the expression “No pain, no gain” in my recovery?
    • Again, the answer to this is it depends, and for the most part I would say no! This will depend on the chronicity of the injury and also the type of injury. For example, when you have a broken bone, we know that the bone needs to be immobilized to heal properly and therefore pushing and moving through pain is detrimental for recovery. If you have an acute injury, you need to avoid aggravating exercise/activities/movements in order to allow time for your body to heal and recovery fully. If you have a nerve irritation, I also recommend avoiding pushing into pain and making the nerve more irritated. Sometimes though, if you have persistent pain, or a chronic issue, increasing pain slightly while exercising or building strength is appropriate. For these issues, it is best to see a physiotherapist to assess your individual situation and determine what is best for you.
  1. Can I see a physiotherapist if I don’t have pain?

Yes, absolutely! Physiotherapy can also be a preventative intervention! A few common reasons to see a physiotherapist would include to reduce the risk of falls, increase your balance, prevent future injury or chronic disease before they occur, combat general deconditions or encourage a more activity or less sedentary life.
By Jennifer Harvey
Registered Physiotherapist, ALPHA Health Services

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