The physiotherapist’s (PT) role in the management of patients with Rheumatic disease is to work in partnership with the patient to enable them to achieve and maintain optimal function and independence. For many patients this will involve taking an active role in family, work and social lives.
Physiotherapists in Rheumatology will carry out detailed patient assessments to:

  • identify how a patient’s condition affects them physically and to what degree an individuals function is affected including mobility, posture etc
  • examine the musculoskeletal system to get a baseline of a patient’s current status
  • consider other body systems i.e. neurology, cardiovascular
  • any special equipment requirements such as walking aids, modified footwear, splint requirements
  • the patient’s current self management and coping strategies
  • the need for physiotherapeutic interventions

The PT discusses assessment findings with the patient and, in conjunction with them, devises a goal orientated treatment plan. This may include pain management with the use of ice, heat, electrotherapy and hydrotherapy. The patient can then progress on to other treatment approaches including: range of movement and muscle strengthening exercises, improving mobility, and posture re-education.

The PT may provide education on their condition for the patient and guides them on self-management of their condition long term. This then enables the patient to modify their exercise programme according to their disease activity. Education of family and carers is also an important part of the PTs role.

Patients’ ability to perform functional activities, such as transfers on and off the toilet, and climb stairs, are also assessed. Liaison with other members of the multidisciplinary team is often an important part of ensuring the best outcome for the patient. By setting realistic goals and working together with the patient, the PT aims to promote independence and enable the patient to reach their optimum potential at home, work and in social activities.

What kind of training does a PT have?

Physiotherapists undertake a three-year degree undergraduate physiotherapy course which leads to a Batchelor of Science degree (BSc) and entitles them to membership of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (MCSP). Physiotherapists working within the NHS must be registered with the Health Professions Council (HPC). This allows them to use the title State Registered Physiotherapist (SRP). Physiotherapists continue to develop their skills and knowledge after qualifying by undertaking postgraduate courses and training.