I often get asked why I got into being a physiotherapist and if I enjoy my job. Concerning the second part I enjoy being a physio very much. I get to help people every day, reducing their fear and anxiety, often times taking people from being incapacitated and in a lot of pain to being fully functional and back to things that are most important to them. Being a physio can be very rewarding.
As to why I got into physiotherapy there are a number of reasons. My first experience of having physiotherapy was when I was a kid. I used to get a lot of Achilles pain playing football and my dad took me to the local physio in my town. I remember her doing a lot of painful massage and then ultrasound on my Achilles (much like I do to my poor patients today). Although this did help, it wasn’t resolving the problem so I we went to see a different physio who took one look at my feet and immediately said I had flat feet and needed insoles. I started wearing these insoles and the pain started to improve.
I was also in quite a bad car accident when I was about 19. The car rolled a couple times and hit a tree. To be fair the driver and I were both lucky to walk away from the carsh alive, but I suffered a whiplash injury and had on going neck and upper back pain for a number of years. This led me to visit different chiropractors, physiotherapists, consultant orthopaedic surgeons and a rheumatologist trying to find out why I had neck and back pain. I kept getting told it would get better eventually but there were two or three things that really helped manage this problem for me, or should I say helped me take control and manage the symptoms and get myself better.
The first one was doing strength and posture exercises. My brother had been working in New Zealand doing rehabilitation personal training for the NZ government and he came home and showed me a number of rehabilitation strength exercises that I could do with a Swiss Ball at home. This immediately improved my neck pain, but I was still suffering from upper back pain. The next useful thing was getting good deep tissue sports massage into my back to clear out all of the sore tension points that I had developed. And finally acupuncture also had a huge benefit for me. One of my physiotherapy mentors did some acupuncture on my back and as soon as she put the needles in the right places in my back it generated the back pain I’d been suffering from for all those years. A couple of sessions of acupuncture, massage and keeping up my exercises really helped clear up my symptoms.
I still get back and neck pain from time to time as I’m bending over people treating them every day. However I get regular deep tissue sports massage and also do some acupuncture on myself in my shoulders and neck when I get tension headaches. I think these maintenance sessions are extremely important for me. They help me stay in good shape and be able to perform 70 plus physio sessions a week.
The last thing that really inspired me to go and study physiotherapy was during my sports science degree. We had a sports injury module in my third year given by physiotherapists. I thought that sports injuries was very interesting and I thought the physiotherapist lecturing us were very clever. At the time of coming to the end of a three year degree I didn’t think I would tolerate doing another three years of physiotherapy so I took a few years out and went back home to Devon. I worked and travelled for a few years but decided I should go for it and trained at St Georges 15 years ago. As I said at the beginning of this article it’s been a good 15 years and I’ve enjoyed my career so far, working in the NHS, professional football and most recently private practice.