5 Tips for Getting the Most out of Physiotherapy

  •   May 15, 2018
  •  Leanne Loranger, PT

In the words of a friend, physiotherapists go into the profession to help people. Thinking back to the university admission process, I remember being a hopeful physiotherapy applicant, explaining to the interview committee how I had watched my mom struggle with an injury that limited her function and how I wanted to be active in helping people get back to doing the things they cared about.

Little did I know the many ways that physiotherapists help to improve the health and wellbeing of Albertans. Physiotherapy is an amazingly diverse profession! Physiotherapists work in settings as varied as schools, intensive care units, private clinics and your own home. Physiotherapists work with people of all ages, helping to manage many health conditions, illnesses or injuries.

There are nearly 2,600 Physiotherapists working in Alberta who:

  • Work with other health-care providers to provide the standard of care, pulmonary rehabilitation, for patients with COPD.
  • Help patients struggling with knee osteoarthritis to strengthen muscles, improve knee range of motion and give advice on exercise and mobility.
  • Support people living with diabetes to manage their condition, take care of their skin and learn how to exercise safely and effectively.
  • Assist people recovering from cancer by prescribing exercises and applying techniques to treat lymphedema and other complications from cancer and treatment.
  • Help injured workers successfully return to their jobs.
  • Help people in hospitals to get moving again and return home.
  • Prescribe exercises to help people regain their strength and mobility.
  • Use a wide range of techniques to relieve pain and help the people they serve feel better.
  • Give advice and information to patients to better manage their health and wellbeing and get back to living!

5 tips for getting the most out of physiotherapy:

  1. Take the time to reflect on what you value, what matters to you and what your goals are.
    A recent study1 found that when patients were actively involved in setting their treatment goals they had measurably better outcomes in range of movement, strength and balance.
  2. Find the right physiotherapist for you.
    Whether you need a physiotherapist who can speak to you in your first language, who is skilled in a particular technique, who works in a specific geographic location or has hours that fit your schedule, you can use the Find a Physiotherapist feature help you to find a therapist to meet your unique needs.
  3. Share your goals with your physiotherapist and discuss if those goals are feasible.
    It helps if you can relate to your physiotherapist and if you can build a working partnership with him or her. Start by thinking about your goals and by finding someone who is committed to working with you to achieve those goals. Working with patients on the things that they care about is part of a physiotherapist’s professional standards, and is at the heart of the treatments they provide.2, 3
  4. Set a course for action to achieve your goals.
    Work with your physiotherapist to create a plan or schedule that works for you. Be sure to tell your physiotherapist when something isn’t working for you.
  5. Work actively to achieve your goals.
    Whatever your condition, the secret to success is that you get out what you put in. This is a message that's often forgotten by both patients and therapists. I was reminded of this when working with a critically ill patient. No matter what was happening that day, he was always willing and ready to work when it was time for therapy. His determination to get well, dedication to his treatment sessions and willingness to push his limits led to his successful recovery, discharge from hospital and return to work. None of which would have happened without his efforts.
    There is a large and growing body of research that shows that exercise or active treatment is more effective than passive physiotherapy treatment. Some examples are improved outcomes for patients with chronic neck pain, managing knee osteoarthritis, and treating shoulder injury.4,5,6

Recently I was asked what I loved most about my profession. My answer was simple: Physiotherapists work actively with patients, helping them to find the way to better health. Helping you achieve your goals and get back to doing what matters to you: that’s why physiotherapists do what we do!

To find a physiotherapist to treat your condition, click here!


  1. Arnetz J, Almin I, Bergstrom K, Franzen Y, Nilsson H. Active patient involvement in the establishment of physical therapy goals: effects on treatment outcome and quality of care. Advances in Physiotherapy [serial on the internet]. (2004, June) [cited May 13, 2014]; 6(2): 50-69. Available from CINAHL
  2. Physiotherapy Alberta’s Code of Ethics. http://www.physiotherapyalberta.ca/physiotherapistswhat_you_need_to_know_to_practice_in_alberta/code_of_ethics
  3. Physiotherapy Alberta’s Standards of Practice. http://www.physiotherapyalberta.ca/physiotherapists/what_you_need_to_know_to_practice_in_alberta/standards_of_practice
  4. Kromer TO Tautenhahn UG, de Bie RA, Staal JB, Bastiaenen CHG. Effects of physiotherapy in patients with shoulder impingement syndrome: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine. (2009, Nov) [cited May 13, 2014];41(11): 870-80.
  5. Bertozzi L, Gardenghi I, Turoni F, Villafane JH, Capra F, Guccione AA, Pillastrini P. Effect of therapeutic exercise on pain and disability in the management of chronic nonspecific neck pain: Sysetmatic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. Physical Therapy. (2013); 93:1026-1036.
  6. Thomas A, Eichenberger, G, Kempton C, Pape D, York S, Decker AM Mohamed K. Recommendations for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis, using various therapy techniques, based on categorizations of a literature review. Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy. (2009); 32(1):33-38