Physiotherapists are, by reputation, quite practical, pragmatic, literal people who are generally modest about their work and conservative in their approach to practice.
You can see this in the books, journal articles and promotional work that was undertaken by the profession in the 20th century.
In recent years, we have learnt that we need to be better at self promotion, but many find this quite challenging. We are not brash, and we don’t like to strut.
But one aspect of our work has suffered as a result, and it may hold an important clue to the way physiotherapy may need to change in the future.
Physiotherapy is transformative. We know this from the millions of patients who, over the years, have been brought back to life, given hope, strengthened, rehabilitated and revived. Many thousands of people have literally had their lives turned around by a physiotherapist, and many more have found something in their therapy that has allowed them to heal.
Physiotherapy is transformative for physiotherapists too. It is probably one of the things that keeps us enamoured with our work. After all, the ability to have a profound effect on someone’s health and wellbeing is very seductive and gives us a great sense of our own worth.
It is surprising then, that physiotherapists do not make more of this transformation. We concentrate on the pragmatic and the mundanely measurable, and lose sight of the ‘bigger picture.’
It may be that many people come to physiotherapy not for what the therapy achieves, but as much for what the therapy makes possible: how it gives a person back a sense of control in the midst of a chaotic life; how it offers them hope for less pain in the future; how it reminds them of what movement used to feel like.
If these existential features of our profession are the profound things that elevate our work above the mundane and quotidian, they deserve more attention and a great deal more exposure.