Physiotherapists in Canada work with clients of all ages and with a wide range of health conditions.
Whether it’s pain management and rehabilitation from an acute injury like a sprained ankle, or management of chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, physiotherapy can help.
But physiotherapy is not limited to rehabilitation of injury and the effects of disease or disability. A physiotherapist also provides education and advice for health promotion, disease and injury prevention.
The Description of Physiotherapy in Canada outlines the definition of physiotherapy and identifies physiotherapy interventions, areas of practice, practice settings and education. This document is a valuable resource for physiotherapists in their discussions with other health professionals, health system leaders and the public.
Where physiotherapists work
Physiotherapists work in a broad range of settings providing client and/or population health interventions as well as management, educational, research and consultation services. Physiotherapy can be accessed in the community at private clinics and through home care services. Physiotherapy services are often affiliated with retirement residences and child development centres. If you are admitted to the hospital for surgery, such as a joint replacement or heart surgery, chances are likely that the physiotherapist was an important member of your health care team.
How physiotherapists assess
A physiotherapist will assess you using detailed history-taking as well as specific physical tests and measures, such as flexibility or range of motion. He or she will then analyze the assessment findings and use clinical reasoning to establish a diagnosis. Together, you will explore your current abilities and functional needs so the physiotherapist can plan treatments that are consistent with your goals and general health status, and which incorporate approaches and techniques supported by the best evidence available.
How physiotherapists treat
Physiotherapy treatments can include the following:
- Personalized exercise programs designed to improve your strength, range of motion, and function
- Joint mobilization and manipulation to reduce pain and stiffness
- Hot and cold packs and modalities to relieve pain, reduce swelling, speed up the healing process, improve movement and function
- Airway clearance methods to assist people with breathing difficulties
- Skin and wound care
- Management of incontinence including pelvic floor re-education
- Functional activity and tolerance testing and training
- Work and occupational re-training and return to work planning
- Prescription, fabrication and application of assistive, adaptive, supportive and protective devices and equipment
- Environmental change, focusing on removing barriers to function
Payment and referral
For many Canadians, health insurance providers cover all cost or a portion of the cost of physiotherapist care. Some extended health insurance plans may require a physician’s referral in order to reimburse you for physiotherapist service, but it’s not always necessary. Call your health insurance provider to confirm your level of coverage beforehand and to determine whether or not you require a physician referral for reimbursement.
Physiotherapist’s fees range from province to province and can vary with practice conditions.
Physiotherapy services provided in a hospital clinic may be paid in full or in part by your provincial health plan. Physiotherapist services provided to patients who require hospital admission are covered by provincial health plans.