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Press Release

One in four Canadian military personnel require physiotherapy

Canada NewsWire

Physiotherapists treat complex injuries on the battlefield and at home

OTTAWA, Nov. 10, 2011 /CNW/ - Physiotherapists in the Canadian Forces treat injured soldiers on the battlefield through to rehabilitation back in Canada. An estimated 25 per cent of Canadian Forces personnel access physiotherapy services each year, and many require long-term rehabilitation programs.

"We're seeing unprecedented numbers of complex cases coming back from Afghanistan," says Alice Aiken, PT, PhD, current director of the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research, and past-president of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association. Dr. Aiken says, "It's taking the profession of physiotherapy to a new level of care."

Physiotherapists work with soldiers who have lost limbs, suffered mobility issues in combat, or experienced other problems that prevent them from engaging in active service. Intricate treatment approaches are needed for those soldiers who experience a combination of injuries.

"Many soldiers face life-altering, multi-traumatic injuries, and need to spend months in comprehensive physical rehabilitation," says Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Rowe, a physiotherapist with the Canadian Forces Health Services Group and member of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association. "Physiotherapy is crucial for these men and women in order to restore their function."

The role of physiotherapy in the military is not new. For decades, Canadian physiotherapists have helped the nation's soldiers — both on the battlefield and at home. In fact, the profession of physiotherapy was born of battle, evolving to address a need to restore injured soldiers from the First World War to their pre-war health, or to help integrate them into civilian life. The tradition continues today as physiotherapists treat acute injuries, chronic conditions, and work with soldiers in training to prevent physical damage and promote overall health.

The ultimate goal for many injured soldiers is to return to full duty. Canadian Forces physiotherapists assist with that process by facilitating rehabilitation care at civilian rehabilitation centres and by later transitioning soldiers back to their home base for the final phases of their rehabilitation. They prescribe treatment programs and exercises to get soldiers moving, helping to build muscle strength, and provide ongoing care to restore function.

Civilian physiotherapists also provide necessary treatment through rehabilitation centres that partner with the Canadian Forces to care for injured soldiers closer to their own home communities.

Whether the physiotherapy they receive is delivered on base or off, one thing most wounded soldiers have in common is their relatively young age. This factor, coupled with the fact that most soldiers are in good physical shape before an injury, is good news from a rehabilitative standpoint.

"Early and intensive physiotherapy for injured soldiers is key," says Rowe. "The potential for them to maximize their function is high, provided the right treatment is prescribed, and adhered to, from the outset."

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