The Future of Physical Therapies

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January 12th, 2021 No Comments Features

physical therapy
Physical therapies encompass much more than the classic image of helping patients recover from stroke or sports injury. There is a wide range of specialisations within the field of physical therapy, including occupational and speech language therapy, each with unique practices and techniques for improving people’s quality of life. Demand for physical therapists will remain on a steady rise for the next decade, even as technologies become more advanced in health care and social services. In this post, we explore a few of the main specialisations within the field and cover trends you can expect to see in the near future.

Physiotherapy

What do physiotherapists do?

Physiotherapists help clients improve their ability to move comfortably through their lives. Using specialised techniques to improve movement and reduce pain and stiffness, physiotherapists diagnose and treat a range of conditions of the bone, muscle, cardiovascular, nerve and other systems. A client may come to you after an accident or injury, or with a chronic condition. You prescribe exercises and aids and give lifestyle advice to help them improve their physical life. You may also perform treatments such as massage, joint manipulation, and muscle stretching.

Which conditions do physiotherapists treat?

Physiotherapists treat a variety of conditions, but the most common are sports injuries, back and knee pain, arthritis, neurological conditions like Parkinson’s, stroke recovery, aches and sprains, osteoporosis, broken bone recovery, surgery rehabilitation, and developmental delays in children.

How do you become a physiotherapist?

To work as a physiotherapist in Australia, you need to complete a tertiary qualification such as a Bachelor of Physiotherapy or Bachelor of Applied Science (Physiotherapy). To practice, you must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency (AHPRA), have insurance, and be continuing your education.

How will physiotherapy change in the future?

According to the Australian Physiotherapy Association, by 2040 most people will have their own “personalised, constantly updated instruction manual covering the body, health and mind with real time diagnostics, X-ray vision, and a colour-coded guidance system to pain, issues, and ailments. Physiotherapists will use this data to plan, perform, and benchmark treatments.”

The field will become more preventative than responsive, says Australian Physiotherapy Council CEO Anton Barnet-Harris. “By 2045 rehabilitation after illness for the most part will be relegated to the annals of history. Enter the new pre-habilitation–identifying and treating disease before it presents in the first place, a paradigmatic shift moving physiotherapy intervention from being responsive to proactive and pre-emptive.”

Occupational therapy

What do occupational therapists do?

Occupational therapists help clients navigate and participate in everyday activities in life, including education, work, volunteering, and caring; showering, dressing, and preparing food; and being part of a community group or engaging in a hobby. They often help people with disabilities modify their environment or activities to suit their needs. They work at healthcare centers, aged care facilities, correctional institutions, universities and research facilities, private clinics and NGOs, public and private hospitals, and more.

Which activities do occupational therapists manage?

Working with people with both physical and mental illnesses and disabilities, occupational therapists might help clients become better at self-management, social participation, paid and volunteer work, educational activities, skill development, ergonomic modifications, perceptual and cognitive processing, and more.

How do you become an occupational therapist?

If you want to become an occupational therapist, you must complete an undergraduate or master’s level course in occupational therapy, complete a minimum of 30 hours per year of continuing professional development, and meet national regulation requirements as set out by the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia for the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency.

How will occupational therapy change in the future?

There is a growing demand for occupational therapists in Australia and beyond. According to the Department of Jobs and Small Business Data, employment of occupational therapists is expected to grow by nearly 15 per cent by 2023. As a relatively young field, occupational therapy is expected to evolve in the near future as practitioners and researchers conduct more scientifically rigorous research to document the value of the profession.

Speech pathology

What do speech pathologists do?

The job of a speech pathologist is to study, diagnose, and treat communication disorders, which includes speaking but also listening, understanding language, writing, reading, social skills, stuttering, and using one’s voice. They even help people who have difficulty swallowing food and drink safely.

Which conditions do speech pathologists treat?

Speech pathologists help people who have problems communicating due to a stroke, brain injury, head trauma, developmental delay, learning disability, dementia or hearing loss, cerebral palsy, and more.

How do you become a speech pathologist?

To become a speech pathologist, you must complete a recognised qualification at the university or masters level. As a self-regulated profession, speech pathology involves professional development and continually meeting standards set by Speech Pathology Australia in order to renew as a certified practising Speech Pathology Australia member.

How will speech pathology change in the future?

Speech pathology is expected to grow more quickly than most professions, jumping 25 per cent from 2019 to 2029. This means over 40,000 speech-language pathology jobs will be available over the next decade. Various technologies will become more integrated into speech therapy practice, including 3D printing (think 3D printed larynxes in speech rooms), teletherapy, and virtual reality.

If you’re thinking of becoming a physical, occupational, or speech therapist, it’s a great time to enter the field. You can even train online to earn your qualification, and balance your studies with your current work situation. Whether you’re just beginning your career or switching fields, physiotherapy can be a rewarding option that will give you job security and personal fulfillment in the long-term.


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Saga Briggs is an author at InformED. You can follow her on Twitter@sagamilena or read more of her writing here.

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