8 September 2021
From helping people with fatigue, to supporting patients who struggle to describe symptoms, physiotherapy is an important aspect of the care we provide as a mental health and learning disabilities Trust.
Christiana Liddle, professional head of physiotherapy at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, shares her expertise in physiotherapy, describing different – perhaps unexpected – ways physiotherapy can benefit people.
1. Physiotherapy can help diagnose underlying physical conditions
The first common myth about physiotherapists is that we are only concerned with mobility. But did you know a physiotherapist is trained to assess respiratory function, pain and neurological presentations? We can therefore help to diagnose underlying physical conditions – we truly are physical detectives.
2. Physiotherapy can support people with long COVID
The theme for World Physical Therapy Day 2021 is Physiotherapy and long COVID. One of the symptoms of long COVID is fatigue.
Fatigue needs to be assessed carefully to rule out post-exertional symptom exacerbation (PESE), as the treatments are very different. PESE is what we call it when 12-48 hours after everyday activities like having a shower or seeing friends, people see their exhaustion symptoms getting worse.
For people who have long-COVID and fatigue, it is reasonable to promote graded exercise to build up exercise tolerance and fitness. Graded exercise therapy (GET) is an exercise programme that aims to gradually increase how long people can carry out a physical activity such as walking and swimming.
However, for people experiencing PESE graded exercise can make symptoms worse. For those patients the treatment of choice is pacing. Pacing means patients should not try to push their limits as it may harm their recovery. We suggest that people rest and pace their normal, everyday activities. If someone has PESE they do not have to wait until they feel symptoms to rest.
3. Physiotherapy can help people who are unable to describe their symptoms
People with dementia, autism or severe learning disabilities may struggle to describe their symptoms.
Physiotherapists do not just work in physical health. By analysing movements, we can detect whether there are any underlying physical problems in people who are unable to describe their symptoms.
Find out more about physiotherapy in mental health and learning disability services
If you’re interested in the support available, you can find out more on our page about physiotherapy at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust.
World Physical Therapy Day is marked every year on 8 September.