What does a physiotherapist do?

The definition given by the CSP(Chartered Society of Physiotherapy) is: “Physiotherapy is a science-based profession and takes a ‘whole person’ approach to health and wellbeing, which includes the patient’s general lifestyle.”

Nowadays there is still the common thought that physiotherapy equals massage. The definition above clarifies that a physiotherapist is not meant to do massage therapy only. Even though it is a skill that physiotherapists can use during the session in conjunction with a wide range of other techniques.

How to understand what you need?


  • Presence of body pain;
  • Every time that you have a loss of functionality with or without pain (e.g. difficulty to move your neck towards one side; difficulty to bend or extend your knee; difficulty to stand up from a chair easily,  difficulty to move up your shoulder, etc.);
  • Sprains, minor trauma, presence of swelling/redness in a joint;
  • Presence of neurological signs (that do not require immediate medical intervention) such as tingling, numbness, pins, and needles. Loss of strength or alteration in the sensitivity, burning/electrical pain.

    Your experienced physiotherapist will know if you need a referral or if they can help you:

  • to regain a full functionality: after a fracture; immobilization with a plaster cast/boot; surgery;
  • to increase your sports performance; after a sports injury to get fully back to your previous sport activity;
  • after a sports injury to get fully back to your previous sport activity.

Physiotherapy can also have a preventive role – depending on your characteristics, physiotherapists in collaboration with your personal trainer can develop an exercise therapy program to improve your strength and muscle mass. 
In several types of research, good muscle mass and strength have demonstrated a high correlation between good health, good aging, preventive effect and good outcome for several conditions.


  • General muscle tension;
  • To increase joint mobility and flexibility;
  • The need for general relaxation and stress hormones reduction;
    To improve circulation, the flow of the oxygen and nutrients of the muscles;
    Stimulation of lymphatic system;
    To improve the recovery of soft tissue injuries;
  • to treat the muscle knots.

For more information about the massage visit dedicated page.

How many sessions do you need?

In general, we can say that a simple mechanical/muscular problem(e.g. I wake up and I can’t turn well my neck towards the right) problem will take no longer than 1-3 sessions.
Pain is not always just a pain, that is why we have to consider the Biopsychosocial model which also takes into consideration the social environment and the psychological word of the person.

Moreover, we need to consider a few things:

  • How long the problem has been present?
    Is it the first time that you have a problem in that area?

Usually, a condition present for more than 3 months (chronic condition) may take longer than the condition present from less than 3 months (acute/subacute condition). Also, a recurrent problem may need further care in respect to the new injury. 

  • Are present any neurological signs/symptoms?

The presence of neurological signs/symptoms such as pins and needles, weakness, etc. (for example a pinched nerve), could cause longer recovery time compared with a muscular/mechanical isolated issue.

  • Are you coming to resolve the pain or for rehabilitation?

Rehabilitation such as hip replacement, shoulder dislocation, cruciate ligament reconstruction will probably take longer than to get relief from pain.

  • Are present any psychological factors?

The presence of anxiety, depression, any dysregulation in the autonomic nervous system can require a longer time to address all the items influencing the pain.

Any condition, however, needs to be well evaluated to give a possible prognosis. At the first appointment, your clinician will discuss with you their findings and how to proceed to obtain the best result. 

Ask for free advice, if you are still unsure.