STICKS AND STONES - Understanding the word ‘Physiotherapist’ in the animal world


Sticks and stones

"Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words can never hurt me." 

Understanding the word ‘Physiotherapist’ in the animal world

If only that were true! As a race we are exceptionally good at interpreting things in a manner different to how they were meant to be interpreted. Communication is all important. A current issue that is close to my heart, as you may well be aware, is the lack of protection of title for animal physiotherapists. For anyone who is not aware of this, although the title 'physiotherapist' is protected (in the UK), as soon as you put an animal related word in front of it (for example, the title 'equine physio' or 'veterinary physio'), the title is no longer protected, meaning that anyone can set up as a veterinary physio without any qualifications, if they were confident enough in themselves! 
Sue palmer Sept 2014 pic sticks and stones
Something that every Chartered Veterinary Physio knows is that in the animal field, physios are not allowed to diagnose the cause of a problem, only a vet is legally allowed to do this. It's tricky, because of course as an owner; you want to know what's wrong with your horse. Your physio is not able to tell you. She can tell you where your horse is sore, or tight, or lacking muscle, or uneven, but she can't tell you why. There are always multiple potential causes, and without X-ray vision or the ability to scan, you cannot know for sure which of the causes the problem is. 

Thankfully, as long as a thorough assessment has uncovered all relevant factors, the treatment is often similar, irrelevant of the underlying cause. In very simple terms, reduce inflammation; reduce soreness, free up tension, build muscle tone - all of which contribute to promoting evenness. In the human field as well as the animal field, it is often more prudent to go for the conservative (non surgical) treatment approach initially, and only consider the surgical approach if the conservative one doesn't work. This doesn't by any stretch mean don't get the vet involved early on - having a diagnosis means you can focus your conservative treatment on the affected area, and medication if necessary can speed recovery. I'm lucky to work with a great veterinary practice, Pool House in Staffordshire, who are very approachable and have excellent diagnostic facilities. It's exciting working as part of a team all doing our best for the horse as well as the owner.

Back to the original thought of how important words can be, I wanted to share with you some recent learning from a book called 'The Chimp Paradox'. The author suggests replacing the word 'should' with 'could', 'must' with 'might' and 'how' with 'why'. Try it - for me it was profound.  

 Sue Palmer Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapist and Equine Behavioural Consultant Tel: 07976 413488 Web:

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