In every profession, there are going to be really good, highly trained and highly motivated professionals and then there will be others that are not as passionate about what they do or don’t have the motivation to stay current and up to date. This applies to medical doctors, physiotherapists, dentists, accountants, teachers, investment specialists etc etc.
Of course, when it comes to YOUR body and YOUR health, you want to choose the most specialized and knowledgeable professional to take care of you so that you can get better faster and prevent recurrence of your issue.
The first thing you have to remember is that health care is a partnership between you and your health care provider. Both you and your provider have to work together as a team to improve your health so that you attain your highest potential. This means that you have to be committed to the process as well. You cannot expect your physiotherapist or other health care provider to magically help you if you are not going to put in the time and effort to help yourself. Often with physiotherapy you will be given some self care strategies that you should implement outside of your treatments. This may involve a stretch or an exercise, it may involve being aware of and correcting poor postures, or it may require stopping a bad habit or resting from an aggravating activity. Nonetheless, it is important that you are committed with your physio to getting better and staying better!
On the same note, since you will be partners with your physiotherapist, it is important that your personalities jive. It is not realistic to think that you will have a great relationship with every single person that you interact with and this also applies to your health care professionals. Your personality and your physiotherapist’s personalities may clash. Make sure you recognize this. You may have the smartest, highly credentialed therapist working with you but if your personalities do not work well together, you may not benefit from the therapeutic relationship and this may limit or hault your progress. So first and foremost, find a physiotherapist whose personality meshes well with yours.
Once that part is out of the way, it is important to find a physio who has the knowledge and skills to get you back on track. FCAMPT physiotherapists have the highest level of training in manual therapy and have very advanced clinical reasoning skills. This can be very important if you have a more complex, multifaceted injury and or condition. But don’t just hang your hat on the FCAMPT designation.
You want to look for a physiotherapist that takes the time to conduct a comprehensive assessment. In the assessment they should be able to get a sense of what your complaints are, what makes your symptoms worse and what makes them better. In addition, they will do a physical assessment to determine which movements cause pain or are limited, which joints are restricted and what muscles are weak or inflexible. They should also take the time to look at other joints above and/or below your problem area to see if there is another area that is driving your symptoms.
Some physios will only spend 5-10 minutes with you and then hook you up to a machine. This may not be the best solution especially if this is being done every time you go in. Your physio should be spending 20-30 minutes of one-on-one time with you. They should be taking the time to educate you on your condition and what needs to be done to rectify the problems that you present with. Your physiotherapist should also be providing you with specific exercise prescription and guiding you through a movement re-training program that will be necessary if you have an injury and/or pain. This is not to say that being hooked up to a machine is a bad thing. It can be helpful for a few treatments. You should start to feel better and be able to do more in time and your treatment should reflect this progression.
I would not recommend going to a clinic where you spend a few minutes with a physio and then spend the rest of the time with an assistant. Clinics that operate like this may offer cheaper rates but you will not be getting the high standard of care that you require to resolve your injury. Physiotherapists are highly trained professionals and spend many years in school. Assistants will not have this knowledge and expertise. You may as well as well flush your money down the toilet instead of wasting your time at clinics like these.
Also, watch out for clinics that promote that they treat the Toronto Maple Leafs, Blue Jays or Raptors. Often it is only a select few clinicians (or more likely their doctors) that may have had consulted with a player or two. Don’t be fooled to think that all of their therapists have treated such elite athletes. Also, remember that all professional teams have their own therapists that they work with throughout the season. I am not suggesting that clinics that promote this are not good but I would refrain you from using this as your selection criteria as you might be let down by what you get. Also, it is important to note that there are many excellent orthopeadic physios out there that have not worked with a sports team…just food for thought!
Lastly, but most importantly, your physio should be able to explain to you what they are doing with you and why they chose a specific treatment strategy. Their explanations should be clear and should make LOGICAL sense to you. Also, don’t be impressed by big words. Your therapist should explain everything to you in terms that you understand. If your physiotherapist knows how to explain something in terms that anyone can understand, that is the biggest “hint” that they really understand what they are doing and have thought it through!