Physiotherapy is used to treat all sorts of conditions and problems at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) associated with bones, muscles, the heart, lungs and circulation. It is a physical treatment that aims to make your joints more supple and flexible and your muscles stronger.

If you need physiotherapy you will need to see a physiotherapist. Physiotherapists are experts of movement analysis and help people regain normal movement.

Why you might need physiotherapy

There are lots of different reasons why you might need physiotherapy. It helps people who are having difficulty with movement because of an accident, such as a sports injury or car accident. It can help you get ‘back on your feet’ after an operation. It‘s also used to treat young people with conditions that affect their muscles or skeleton, or people with conditions that affect the brain or nervous system.

Physiotherapy is also used to help people with cystic fibrosis. This is a genetic (inherited) condition where mucus inside the body becomes thick and sticky, clogging the lungs and other important organs.

Physiotherapy helps people of all ages. It will help your body to work better and gradually heal itself.

What happens

Different techniques are used by physiotherapists, including:

  • Stretching and exercises – helps increase movement of stiff joints. There are gentle exercises for the entire body, such as swimming, or exercises focused on a specific body part.
  • Massage – helps increase the flow of blood and fluids around your body.
  • Manipulation – movement of joints and bones to help with pain and stiffness.
  • Hydrotherapy – special exercises in water. 
Sometimes therapists use specialist equipment, such as hydrotherapy pools, physiotherapy gyms and other hi-tech equipment.

How long will it take?

This depends on why you’re having physiotherapy. Your therapist will be able to tell you how long sessions will last.

Where will you have physiotherapy?

Physiotherapists work in GP surgeries, hospitals and in the community. They might visit you while you’re in hospital or at home. Or you might visit them at their practice, a bit like having a doctor’s appointment.

You can see a physiotherapist on the NHS or you can choose to see one privately and pay for treatment.

How long will you need physiotherapy for?

This also depends on why you are having physiotherapy. Your physiotherapist will be able to give you more information. Some people might need it for a short time after a sports injury, while others might need it throughout their lives to help them with a condition, such as cerebral palsy.

Last reviewed: April 2011

Compiled by:
Great Ormond Street Hospital