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World Physiotherapy Day highlights the role of physio in stroke recovery

Photo: Australian Physiotherapy Association
September 8, 2017 marks World Physiotherapy Day which, this year, falls within National Stroke Week (September 4 - 10), highlighting the increasingly important role physiotherapy plays in stroke recovery. 

Specialist physiotherapy treatment is vital for optimal post-stroke recovery, with new research data showing early and frequent mobilisation – including sitting out of bed, standing and walking – significantly improves functional outcomes for stroke survivors.   

"A recent Phase III research trial demonstrated that frequent amounts of short duration physical activity in the very early stages post-stroke were associated with better outcomes after three months compared to longer duration activity," said Melissa Birnbaum, chair of the Australian Physiotherapy Association's neurological physiotherapy group.
"Prior to the completion of this study, no high quality trials were available to guide early rehabilitation practices."

Results of the study have informed part of the new Clinical Guidelines for Stroke Management which are due to be released at the beginning of Stroke Week and have influenced the early rehabilitation practices undertaken following stroke," said Ms Birnbaum.

Thanks to daily in-patient physiotherapy treatment, 68-year-old Brian A Beh was able to walk out of hospital 16 weeks after a major stroke left him with right-side paralysis.

Mr A Beh's physio rehab included learning to walk again and muscle strengthening in his arm and leg.

"The AVERT trial demonstrated reduced disability and an increased likelihood of walking by 3 months following stroke with frequent amounts of short duration physical activity in the very early stages post-stroke.

"Brian’s story is a great example of what sorts of outcomes can be achieved following stroke."

Stroke is just one of many significant health concerns that have come to rely on physiotherapy as an integral part of the recovery process.

“In the past, people have commonly associated physiotherapy with sports injuries, and we certainly see that on television with physios working closely with footballers, tennis players and swimmers to help them get the most out of their bodies,” says Australian Physiotherapy Association national president Phil Calvert.

“But increasingly physios are becoming integral to the care of people with significant health concerns.

“Many physios work with men pre- and post-prostate cancer surgery to ensure they regain their normal function as quickly as possible.

“Physios work with older Australians on strength and mobility programs so they can maintain their independence and reduce their falls risk; and paediatric physios help kids with an array of developmental delays that impact their daily life.”

As a result of continued evidence-based research on the benefits of physiotherapy, GPs frequently refer patients for musculoskeletal injuries and pain management, and physiotherapists have become part of the wider multidisciplinary teams that treat people with chronic conditions like osteoarthritis, diabetes, and obesity.


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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications ( and a children's author.