physio for surgery

How to Choose a Physiotherapist

Practical tips to finding a physio that will help you meet your goals.

In one of our recent articles, Candice Sumner, an experienced sports physiotherapist from local practice Candice Sumner Physiotherapy, outlined the importance of physiotherapy in a patient’s recovery from joint surgery. In the article, she answered questions like, what is a physiotherapist, what is the role of a physiotherapist, how long is physio necessary after joint surgery, and why are exercises so important.

As a follow-up to this helpful article, we asked Candice to expound a bit more on the physiotherapist’s role after surgery and what you can look out for when choosing a physio to join you on your journey to recovery.


What Qualifies a Physiotherapist?

Physios in South Africa have a four-year honours degree (BSc in Physiotherapy). These four years include honours and an internship followed by a fifth year of community service. Following on from this, there are post-graduate courses that they can choose to complete in orthopaedic manual therapy, sports therapy, women’s health, paediatrics and more. Physios also need to maintain a certain number of professional points which means they have to be constantly learning and attending numerous courses throughout any given year.

Physiotherapists each will have special interests in different areas and try to get as much experience within their area of interest. For instance, after undergoing joint surgery you will want to see an orthopaedic or sports physio and not necessarily someone who has a primary interest and particular experience in paediatric therapy.


When Do You Need to Find a Physio?

After surgery, you will be attended to by a hospital-based physiotherapist. These physios generally handle orthopaedics, and on discharge, they should schedule a follow-up appointment with you at their practice. Your follow-ups with them may last anything from six weeks to three months.

For those who are more active and enjoy participating in sports, once you have finished your sessions with the orthopaedic physio, you may want to explore booking a few sessions with a sports physio. A sports physio will look at the finer biomechanics and the demands of your specific sport and help you get back to participating in that sport and performing at a higher level.


How Do You Find a Physio?

It is always important to remember to look for a physio whose special interest lies in your specific area of need. For instance, in the case of joint surgery, this will be an orthopaedic or sports physio. Keeping this in mind when finding a physio may be as simple as going to Google and searching for “hip replacement physio” or “knee surgery physio”  or “sports physio” along with the area you are looking in and seeing what results pop up. If you do this, we recommend that you check their online reviews for insights into what others have to say about their experiences with them.

Your surgeon will also have recommendations of who to use and will refer you to someone they trust and have worked with before. Alternatively, you could ask friends and family for recommendations of who they have successfully used and you could even contact the South Africa Society of Physiotherapy to find out who is registered in your specific interest group.

Perhaps you come from a smaller town with fewer options for treatment; in this case, the physio you see in your home town can liaise with the physio you saw in hospital. They would just need to communicate well and, with your permission, send any reports and notes relevant to giving you the best treatment moving forward.


 “The right physio can make all the difference.”


The key here is to find somebody with whom you can work well. Personality is important when it comes to this type of treatment – you want to find a physio who gives you a good set of exercises and motivates you to do them. If you are with a physio that you are not necessarily gelling with, rather go to someone else – in the end, you want the best outcome for yourself, and this often simply comes down to personal motivation. The right physio can make all the difference.


What Should People Look for in a Physiotherapist?

Your physio should be somebody who knows what motivates you, understands your goals, and will work together with you to achieve your goals. These goals can range from getting back to running a marathon, going fishing or getting down on the ground to play with your grandchildren to returning to gardening, long hikes or cycling. Whatever your goals are, your physio should work with you to help make them happen.

Typically, you may get a standard sheet of exercises for the first six weeks or so. However, by at least three months post-surgery, your programme should be based on your goals. If you are continuously getting very standard printed sheets with generic exercises to complete – you may want to move to someone who can “tailor-make” a programme specific to your needs and goals.


Covering the Cost of Physiotherapy

Unfortunately, the cost of physio sessions and what is covered by medical aid is not always cut and dried. Certain conditions fall under Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMBs) – so, for instance, an ankle fracture requiring surgery is a PMB – however, not all injuries will qualify. For those conditions not covered by PMB, you will need to pay out of your day-to-day benefits or out of pocket. It is best to discuss your case with your surgeon or physio directly. The good news is that in instances where medical aid does provide cover, they can often cover up to 12 sessions (and even 20 sessions for a more complicated case).

When it comes to orthopaedic surgery and rehabilitation, the other good news is that there is often more emphasis on the patient doing their exercises (exercise therapy) than in going for sessions. A lot depends on the patient in this case – some come back regularly for hands-on therapy and exercises, whilst others only come in a couple of times a month and focus on completing their exercises at home. Those who choose the option of more limited sessions will need to keep motivated and be self-disciplined.

Appointments at the practice can also be spaced out to make it more affordable. For instance, we always work with the patient’s goals and within their budget and help patients get the most out of what they have available. After all, we would like to get you back on your feet and living a full life.

Feel free to find out more about the procedures we specialise in at Cape Hip and Knee and access our step-by-step guide to surgery on our website. Should you have any additional questions or want to get started on your journey towards pain-free living, get in touch with us and book a consult today.

_ _ _ _ _ _


About Candice Sumner:

Candice began her practice in March 2012. She is driven by a passion for seeing people living an abundant life free from injury and pain. As a sufferer from chronic pain herself, following a spinal fracture, Candice knows how debilitating pain and injuries can be; but she also believes that through the correct treatment and exercise, we should all be able to enjoy a high quality of life – 100% pain-free where possible.

How to Choose a Physiotherapist