Physiotherapy is a science-based health profession, using physical methods to treat the body. A qualified Physiotherapist has undergone a 3-year degree, gaining knowledge in anatomy, physiology, neurology, biomechanics and pathophysiology. Core skills are then developed on clinical placements including Orthopaedics, Musculoskeletal, Neurology, Community rehabilitation. Once qualified, most practitioners rotate between many specialisms of physiotherapy, giving them a wide range of skills and background knowledge, before specialising in their preferred area. The most important skill is clinical reasoning; choosing the most appropriate management option supported by evidence. Physiotherapists’ skills are continuously developed throughout their career, usually in the NHS, which provides regular in-service training, peer supervision, watched assessments and case reviews. This scrutiny ensures safe practice, effectiveness and up-to-date knowledge of evidence. All Physiotherapists are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
The application of all the physiotherapeutic skills can be applied to animals. Veterinary physiotherapy incorporates knowledge of veterinary practices, animal anatomy, physiology, biomechanics and pathophysiology. It also uses ‘evidence-based medicine’, where the most appropriate and effective methods are used to treat an animal.
There is now a register for animal therapists (animal physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors) who have reached a high level qualification and can prove their experience, called RAMP. This allows owners and veterinarians to ensure they are using a suitably qualified individual that is insured for their practice.
The term Physiotherapist is a protected title, whereby only those with a degree in Physiotherapy (i.e. human) may use it. However, any word preceding it invalidates this, therefore ‘Veterinary or Animal or Equine Physiotherapist’ does not require any specific qualifications or regulation. There are copious training routes now available to gain a qualification in veterinary physiotherapy, which vary considerably in their length and requirements. The only way to be sure you are using a qualified Physiotherapist is to look for the title ‘Chartered’. A Chartered Physiotherapist has gone through the rigorous training routes of a human Physiotherapy degree, experience usually in the NHS, then a Masters-level post-graduate degree in Veterinary Physiotherapy. They are members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) and Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy (ACPAT). They are also fully insured and regulated.