January 30, 2024
One of the most common questions a Physio is often asked is: Can a Physiotherapist Diagnose?
Unhelpfully, the answer is both yes and no. In this blog, we’ll explore when they can and can’t diagnose and give you a better understanding of the scope of what a physiotherapists role entail.
When Can A Physiotherapist Diagnose You?
Physiotherapists specialise in musculoskeletal disorders and rehabilitation.
They primarily focus on treating physical injury and enhancing mobility. Additionally, they assess and provide clinical diagnoses within this scope. For example, they must only diagnose disease or disorders associated with the musculoskeletal system and these assessments help pinpoint and diagnose this.
Diagnostic Assessment by Physiotherapists:
As mentioned above, physios use their skills to assess a patient’s physical health. They use the following assessments to do so:
1. Subjective Assessment: Before any physical examinations, physios will first gather information about the physical impairment. This includes a patient’s symptoms and medical history.
2. Objective Assessment: Through physical examination, they will then look at muscle strength, joint range of motion, flexibility, posture, and functional movement patterns.
Further tools may be needed such as; an ultrasound, electromyography, or gait analysis to gather additional information.
3. Differential Diagnosis: Based on the outcome of the assessments, the physio will use clinical reasoning skills to diagnose. It will be at this stage that they begin ruling out potential causes of the patient’s symptoms and identifying the most likely diagnosis.
Collaboration with Healthcare Professionals
Physiotherapists frequently collaborate with other medical specialists, even if they are qualified to make clinical diagnoses in their specific field. Physiotherapists may refer patients to appropriate experts, such as orthopaedic surgeons, rheumatologists, or general practitioners, when more research or specialised medical care are needed.
Regulatory Framework and Professional Standards:
The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), which establishes requirements for professional practice, education, and training, regulates physiotherapists in the UK. Physiotherapists always ensure patient safety and high-quality therapy by abiding by stringent ethical rules and professional standards.