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Do children NEED physiotherapy?

Updated: Feb 10


When I tell people what Movement and Milestones is this is by far the most common question I get asked - Do children need physiotherapy? In order to answer it well, I need to ask another question what is physiotherapy?


What is Physiotherapy?

Usually when I tell people I'm a physio they will respond with oh I've a sore back or a sore knee.  In other words people associate the profession of physiotherapy with pain.  Lovely.


Dealing with pain is a big part of what we do but at the root of it physiotherapists are experts in the human body particularly the musculoskeletal system.


When I lived in Haiti

physiotherapy was a relatively new concept.  Historically there were and still are people in the community who 'did massage' for people in pain.  It was only after the 2010 earthquake when a lot of foreign physios came did people begin to understand what a physiotherapist is.


In Haiti the response I got to 'I am a physiotherapist' was 'ou fe movman' which literally means you do movement.  We used to laugh about it but when you think about it it's true....physiotherapists are experts in human movement. In fact if you know a physiotherapist I can guarantee they know exactly how you tend to walk because they are always watching - we are trained to watch and analyse how people move.



how do babies learn to move?

Babies learn to move through their environment and experience. As they are learning to move their brains are mapping out where their body is in space, where their midline is and laying down pathways for movements which will one day become automatic.   For a baby moving is a totally new experience - we have all seen the delight on a child's face when they take their first steps - it makes them feel good! Their muscles and joints are switched on, they are getting great sensory input through their joints, they are becoming aware of where their legs are and how they are supposed to use them...moving feels good!


Have you ever watched how children move? It is amazing! Watch how a baby squats down to pick something up of the floor then stand back up again with no problems - they move beautifully. Children are experts in moving they can squat and run and climb and hop and leap and swing and hang and jump and somersault (ok maybe not all can somersault!) and do things that scare us because they haven't got old enough to develop bad habits like us!


Yet for a variety of reasons, some children struggle with moving. Some struggle with not being able to control their movement so these kids move ALL the time! Others just can't seem to get their bodies to move in the way they want - these kids often don't want to join in games or run about because they have to work so hard to move.



What has that got to do with children and physiotherapy?


Traditionally physiotherapy has been used to treat children with a neurological condition such as cerebral palsy, down syndrome, spina bifida and other genetic conditions.  These kids have trouble moving because of a neurological issue and they benefit so much from physiotherapy. Physiotherapy can also treat children with torticollis, toe walking, in toeing and other musculoskeletal injuries and pain.



However the side of physiotherapy most people don't think about it is helping children who don't necessarily have a diagnosis but need some help with learning to move better. Some children have a harder time reaching their gross motor milestones such as rolling, crawling, standing and walking. I just read a research article that said that from 1990 - 2010 the proportion of children who attained three gross motor milestones by set age targets had decreased but they couldn't come up with any reasons why. In just 20 years babies are able to move less than they were before and no one knows why. Now we are almost another 20 years down the line, how are our babies doing today?



These children can really benefit from physiotherapy to achieve their gross motor milestones at the appropriate time. As well as being able to do the skill there are all sorts of other things going on in a child's body at the same time. eg weightbearing (taking weight through muscles and joints) is helping to build strong bones and form the hip joints.


The other group of children who can benefit from physiotherapy is those who most people wouldn't normally think of - kids who struggle with balance, coordination, posture and core stability. As a child grows and develops and tasks become more and more complex like riding a bike or climbing the climbing frame or the demands of the classroom increase then these tasks can become very challenging for some children who have not developed a good balance or central stability system (sometimes called core stability). Or the children who cannot control their movement so they move all the time because moving is easier than sitting still. These kids can benefit so much from physiotherapy to help them gain better control of their muscles so they can sit still when it is appropriate to do so.


This takes us back full circle to our original question, however I think a better question is can children benefit from physiotherapy?


Absolutely!


Physiotherapy can help build a solid foundation of efficient gross motor skills setting your child up for success as they build on and learn more complex skills as they grow and develop.


With that solid foundation of gross motor skills they can learn well and more importantly play well!

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Takeaway

Don't beat yourself up if your child is behind on meeting their motor milestones or you have noticed they don't move very well maybe they fall over a lot or can't ever sit still.


It is not your fault.


There are a whole variety of factors which can lead into a child's development. Sometimes the solution is simple, sometimes its a little more complex. The important thing is that you have recognised it and are willing to do something about it.


Remember

  • Give your baby plenty of time on the floor to develop their gross motor skills.

  • Try to have them out of containers (car seat, baby swing, bouncer etc) longer than they are in one.

  • Babies and children's brains are developing. Lets give them the opportunities to learn these skills really well.

  • It doesn't have to be complicated - loads of free play especially outside will help develop so many gross motor skills and complex movements.

  • Physiotherapy can help children with motor delays as well as balance, coordination, core stability and postural issues.


Got questions? email me info@movementandmilestones.com


MOVE WELL PLAY WELL!




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