Role of physiotherapy

Paediatric physiotherapists work with people of varying ages from premature babies to adolescents to ensure optimal physical function and development. Like all physiotherapists, they are concerned with movement, co-ordination, posture and the cardiorespiratory system. The aim of the paediatric physiotherapist is to provide a program that the client will enjoy, while encouraging them to participate and become independent.

Paediatric physiotherapists aim to minimise the effects of physical impairment to promote optimum function and musculoskeletal development. Advice on activities and stretches offered by the physiotherapist can assist in maintaining full range of movement and prevention of contracture.

Benefits of physiotherapy

Paediatric physiotherapists assess and treat infants and children with a range of conditions including:

bullet cerebral palsy - from mild hemiplegia to severe quadriplegia;
bullet developmental delay - due to hypotonia with or without diagnosis and may be gross motor or global;
bullet syndromes and other genetic conditions;
bullet spina bifida and neural tube defects;
bullet muscular dystrophy and spinal muscular atrophy;
bullet brachial plexus lesions;
bullet juvenile chronic arthritis (JCA);
bullet visual handicaps;
bullet premature babies with dystonia;
bullet postural problems - torticollis, scoliosis, talipes, metatarsus adductus, or idiopathic toe walkers;
bullet respiratory problems such as cystic fibrosis or asthma;
bullet osteogenis imperfecta;
bullet minimal cerebral dysfunction.

The role of the paediatric physiotherapist is to assess the referred child and give parents and/or carers advice regarding handling, positioning and treatment through play and/or exercise. Physiotherapists work closely with families, carers, teachers, doctors and other health professionals. The approach is holistic and practical, with an emphasis on gross motor function and posture. For better outcomes and most effective treatment results, early referral is the key (before eight months). Infants and children can be seen at home, day care centre, Early Intervention Programs, schools or clinics on a regular basis.

Advice will be given on appropriate handling and equipment including seating, standing frames, mobility aids and pushers. A range of treatment methods may be used such as neurodevelopmental therapy, motor learning and hydrotherapy. Physiotherapists are often the first therapist to see the child and are well received by parents.

Paediatric physiotherapists also work with a range of conditions to help older children and adolescents, including:

bullet acquired brain injury and spinal injury;
bullet neurological diseases;
bullet post trauma injuries, such as fractures, sports injuries, post orthopaedic surgery;
bullet juvenile chronic arthritis and related conditions;
bullet developmental conditions such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and spina bifida;
bullet cystic fibrosis and other respiratory disorders such as asthma;
bullet burns and plastic surgery;
bullet limb deficiency conditions;
bullet chronic pain

Physiotherapists help to maintain and develop functional skill level and range of movement in order to minimise joint contracture and postural deformities. They encourage children to partake in a wide range of activities at school and in the community to maintain physical fitness and provide opportunities for socialisation with their peers. They also prescribe and monitor the use of aids such as orthotics, walking aids, and wheelchairs to help maintain independence.

Finding a physiotherapist

Paediatric physiotherapists can be found in the Department of Human Services, Hospitals, Community Health Centres and in funded agencies such as The Spastic Society or Yooralla, or in private practice.

Would you like the names of physiotherapists who have a special interest in Paediatrics? 
 Call us on (03) 9527 7532 or contact us here..

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Move well. Stay well.
By courtesy of the Australian Physiotherapy Association