Physiotherapists treat a number of musculoskeletal conditions – a broad term that encompasses damage to bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves. Because these conditions are so wide ranging, they affect from children (as in juvenile rheumatoid arthritis) to the elderly (as in osteoarthritis) and everyone else who may suffer an injury. Other conditions which fall under this heading include carpal tunnel syndrome, muscular dystrophy, fibromyalgia and osteomyelitis (bone infection), to name a few. Many patients recover their strength and ability to function again through physiotherapy treatment. The overriding symptom of all these conditions is pain. In the case of an injury that affects the bone, or in osteomyelitis, this type of pain is more severe than muscle pain. Tendon and ligament pain, as occurs in tendonitis, is less severe than bone pain.
Some conditions may cause pain by compressing a nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a repetitive strain injury that compresses the median nerve, causing pain and a burning sensation along the course of the nerve. In fibromyalgia, the pain is widespread and the locations difficult to pinpoint. Pain may be treated with deep heat such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), followed by different forms of therapeutic massage. Cold packs may be used initially with pain resulting from an injury. The importance of exercise in dealing with musculoskeletal conditions can never be overstated. Exercise improves flexibility, promotes movement, and increases blood flow to the area. It also helps to reduce pain. Strengthening exercise is important to restore function and condition to weak muscles.