Bachelor’s Degree in Physiotherapy
A physiotherapist treats motor function conditions and the pain symptoms of the musculoskeletal system using therapeutic exercise, the application of physical devices and manual techniques. In line with this definition, two words characterise the profession: treatment and function.
In their dealings with patients with sometimes incurable motor defects and with the aim of reducing their impairment, the purpose of a physiotherapist, rather than curing an illness, is first and foremost to treat a function: the motor function.
The biomedical model to which the majority of scientific and economic resources are directed - as well as that usually identified by the media – is that which heals illness. In this field, we have achieved resounding successes that have guaranteed a rise in the average age of the population and improvements in the survival of patients, including those with serious medical conditions. These biomedical successes have led also to an increase in the importance of the profession of those who treat the impairment, helping an ever-greater number of subjects to obtain a better quality of life, despite the persistence of complex motor disorders.
Coming to our second key word - function - attending to motor function means shifting the attention away from the condition that caused the impairment. Two patients with the same illness can have different motor symptoms and are therefore treated differently by the physiotherapist. Physiotherapy focuses on the outcomes of disease, rather than its causes.
The physiotherapist’s profession requires vast technical and scientific know-how in order to perform:
a functional assessment – i.e. the phase of the physiotherapy treatment in which the practitioner attempts to understand the motor behaviour of the patient to be treated, by identifying the motor disorder (or disorders), the residual potential and any compensation strategies, in other words, the use of postures or movements that make it possible to overcome a motor defect in order to perform a functional task. To do this, the physiotherapist uses various means that in different ways glean both overall and analytical information: patient interview, observation, joint examination, muscle examination, superficial and deep sensitivity exam, balance exam and functional tests (gait, stairs, gestures). In this stage, a vital contribution is made by instrumental analysis, which provides additional information regarding the mechanics and neurophysiology of movement.
physiotherapy treatment – The information obtained during the functional assessment allows the physiotherapist to devise a treatment plan, a strategy that firstly establishes the rehabilitation targets and subsequently, depending on the goals set, defines, plans and applies different physiotherapy techniques: therapeutic exercise, passive mobilisation, stretching, manual therapies, training on the use of aids and/or prostheses, motor and postural education.
the assessment of treatment efficacy – As with any problem-solving process, also for physiotherapy treatment it is necessary to assess the achievement of the goals set. The assessment of treatment efficacy is based both on the opinions of the physiotherapist and patient and on the tools that provide an objective measurement of the results. The physiotherapist will assess the rehabilitation results of the therapy applied and the patient will express an opinion on the level of improvement in his/her quality of life. The main tools used to obtain an objective measurement of the results include psychometric tests that assess functional tasks and the instrumental measurements of motor changes.
According to Italian Law no. 251 of 10 August 2000, article 2 (1), physiotherapists are rehabilitation practitioners who perform in their own right and with professional autonomy, for individual persons and the community, activities for the prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and functional assessment activities, in order to utilise the specific know-how required by the job description.
The job description defines physiotherapists as those who perform, either autonomously or in concert with other healthcare professionals, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation initiatives, in the field of motor function, higher cortical functions and visceral functions caused by pathological events of various congenital or acquired origins. Physiotherapy graduates, in accordance with the doctor’s diagnosis and prescription, and for those aspects for which they are competent, either individually or as part of a multidisciplinary team, devise the rehabilitation programme aimed at identifying and overcoming the health needs of the impaired person; they autonomously practice therapeutic activities for the functional rehabilitation of motor, psychomotor and cognitive impairments using physical, manual, massage and occupational techniques; they suggest the use of aids and prostheses, train the patient to use them and assess their efficacy; they make sure that the rehabilitation method applied meets the functional recovery aims; they study, teach and provide professional consultations, in healthcare services and other services where their professional expertise is required; they perform their professional activities in public or private healthcare facilities, as employees or freelance professionals.