Who Treats Musculoskeletal Disorders?
Physical Therapy Explained. Physical therapists are medically trained professionals who treat patients by physical methods including manipulation, massage, infrared heat treatment and remedial exercise, etc. and not by drugs. There are three disciplines which mainly focus on the musculoskeletal system:
- Physiotherapists can be seen working in many areas of the NHS and in private practice. They work in all areas of musculoskeletal care and rehabilitation. In the NHS they are probably best known for their work in assisting patients through the rehabilitation process (such as post-op recovery, after sustaining an accident or major burns injury). They also commonly work in outpatients and in private practice where they treat sports injuries and acute & chronic musculoskeletal conditions.
They employ a mixture of hands-on techniques but will also commonly use a variety of electrical treatments (e.g. ultrasound). Many physiotherapists now use acupuncture as part of their overall treatment approach.
- Osteopaths main focus is on maintaining the health of the musculoskeletal system. The osteopathic principle is to take a holistic approach to the treatment of a patient’s condition. They like to find out the cause(s) of why an injury has occurred and offer treatment to assist recovery. They will often give ‘self-help’ advice to a patient to help prevent the injury occurring again. Much of their work involves treating dysfunction (pain and disability) of the spinal area.
The osteopath applies hands-on techniques to joints, soft tissues, muscles and ligaments to ease pain and improve mobility and to assist the natural healing process. Osteopaths mostly work in private practice. They also commonly use acupuncture as part of their treatment approach.
- Chiropractors are more aligned to osteopaths in their treatment approach. Similar to osteopaths, they focus on treating the musculoskeletal system and are especially known for their work with mechanical disorders of the spine. They take a holistic approach to restoring and maintaining health and as part of their treatment will often advise patients on general health care to maintain fitness and wellbeing. They use hands on techniques such as mobilisation and manipulation and are seen working predominantly in private practice.