What is a physiotherapist?
A physiotherapist is a university-trained health professional who can treat conditions or injuries that affect the way you move and do your daily activities.
Paediatric physiotherapists are physiotherapists who specialise in working with children from birth and during childhood and adolescence.
Physiotherapists work in community health centres, private practices, not-for-profit organisations and hospitals.
If your child has health or development concerns, health professionals like physiotherapists are there to care for your child and help you understand your child’s condition and treatment. With the support and expertise of these professionals, you can help your child thrive.
Why your child might see a physiotherapist
A physiotherapist can help your child with:
- problems with balance, posture, coordination and gross motor skills
- joint, muscle or nervous system problems that are causing weakness, pain or movement difficulties
- weight and physical activity advice
- growth or sports injuries to the bones, joints, muscles and ligaments
- recovery after surgery or illness to improve strength, movement, function and independence
- conditions like scoliosis or plagiocephaly.
Physiotherapists often work with children with developmental or physical disabilities like cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and autism spectrum disorder to help these children with physical and motor skills difficulties.
Physiotherapists who work with children will want you to be involved in your child’s sessions and in planning your child’s treatment. Good communication with families is very important to paediatric physiotherapists.
You don’t need a GP referral to see a physiotherapist, but your GP or child and family health nurse is always a good place to start if you’re worried about your child’s health or development. These health professionals can help you decide about seeing a physiotherapist and help you find someone who’s right for your child. You can also go to Australian Physiotherapy Association – Find a physio.
Before going to a physiotherapist
If your GP refers your child to a physiotherapist, it’s a good idea to talk with the GP about the following things:
- Why you’re going: talk with your GP about why your child needs to see a physiotherapist.
- Appointments: do you need to make the appointment or will the GP make it for you?
- Waiting lists: how long before you can get an appointment to see the physiotherapist?
- Cost: how much will the appointment with the physiotherapist cost? It might be expensive, so you could check whether you can get help from Medicare, private health insurance or the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
- Location: find out where you have to go to see the physiotherapist – for example, a hospital, private consulting rooms or a community health centre. You might have to travel further than you expect, depending on your child’s needs. Some children’s physiotherapists do home visits.
- Qualifications: physiotherapists in Australia must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). This means they have met all requirements to work as a physiotherapist in Australia.
You might want to talk about these things and any other questions you have with your GP before you go to the physiotherapist. You could also ask the physiotherapy practice or health centre when you make the appointment. It’s a good idea to write down your questions, so you don’t forget.