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When should I see an Exercise Physiologist?


We find the best way to approach this topic is with the example of a muscle or joint injury over the course of an injury cycle. During the initial or ‘acute’ stages of the injury (immediately post injury to approximately 10 days following), it is recommended to see a physiotherapist to help control inflammation/pain and receive diagnosis.

Following this stage is the proliferation phase (from approximately week 1-3). In this phase Physiotherapists will generally commence promoting range of motion utilising gentle exercise, soft tissue mobilisation, and manual therapy aiming to reduce scar tissue formation at the site of injury.

At weeks 3-4 onwards, we progress into the ‘rehabilitative phase’, and this is typically where an Exercise Physiologist will come into their own to continue to drive the rehabilitative process. It is our primary role now to restore healthy joint mobility, strength, function and proprioception (sensory awareness) using balance and multi-directional exercises. All prescribed exercises are made relative to each individuals ADLs (activities of daily living) and performance goals.

Whilst your general practitioner (GP) may provide you with a referral for treatment, this is not required and bookings can be arranged directly with either treatment provider. In most instances this is actually the most efficient and timely way to start the rehabilitative journey back to what we love doing most. In many cases a GP is just that, a general practitioner; and will likely refer you to an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist anyway, should your concern be musculoskeletal or physiology related. I liken this to household maintenance, you wouldn’t call an electrician for a plumbing problem…

Like Physiotherapists, Exercise Physiologists will often specialise in specific areas according to their strengths, so when seeking out the services of an EP it is preferable to find one that specialises in your target area to assure optimum results from your treatment.

There are many similarities and differences between physiotherapists and Exercise physiologist as well as their roles in allied health care. Perhaps the most important similarity however is the shared goal of restoring optimum health. In any case, when considering your treatment provider, better questions to ask would be- Are my needs being met? Do I have a clear treatment plan? Am I improving? Are the causes of my symptoms being treated or just the symptoms? Am I dependent on my practitioner or can I implement self-management strategies?

Exercise physiologist or Physiotherapist, the answer to these questions will make it clear if you are in the right place to get you back to doing what you love.

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