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Direct appointments with physiotherapists mean faster access to care

Experiencing pain in your lower back, or in your knees? Do you have shoulder or neck problems? Musculoskeletal complaints are very common among students in higher education.

But no need to worry because last October, the FSHS officially launched direct appointments with physiotherapists – and they’ve been a great success. Students as well as physiotherapists and physicians working at the FSHS seem to be happy with the new arrangement.

Direct appointments with physiotherapists allow a student with musculoskeletal problems to be referred to a physiotherapist without seeing a physician first. Naturally the physiotherapist can always consult a physician if needed.

Heidi Riska, the FSHS’s chief physiotherapist, explains that direct appointments with physiotherapists mean faster access to care, first-stage guidance for students and the appropriate start of rehabilitation.

A physiotherapist is an expert in musculoskeletal complaints and often the right professional to contact first. It’s good to remember that you can also see a doctor if necessary.

Multidisciplinary treatment

Most musculoskeletal complaints among students are associated with physical stress. Back, knee and shoulder complaints are often due to incorrect, excessive, insufficient or repetitive movements, and this is the cause of the pain.

More serious causes that may require surgery are rare. Often the problem is resolved after correction of body muscular imbalance and optimizing physical stress.

“Direct appointments with physiotherapists allow physicians and physiotherapists work more closely together, and this makes appointments more meaningful”, Riska says.

Seeing a physiotherapist and what happens during the appointment

If you have a problem such as lower back pain or shoulder pain, contact the FSHS’s booking service. The staff will assess whether your complaint requires an appointment with a physiotherapist.

Physiotherapists can help you with ergonomics, issues relating to physical stress and rehabilitation after musculoskeletal complaints or injuries, or instruct you how to start exercising and alleviate pain.

During the coronavirus pandemic, some appointments are being carried out remotely. If necessary, students may also visit a service unit, where they must comply with safety precautions (masks, hygiene).

During your direct appointment, the physiotherapist will interview you and perform a preliminary clinical evaluation to decide how to proceed.

The physiotherapist may give you tips on how to deal with physical stress, exercise and pain relief. If necessary, the physiotherapist may consult a physician or refer you to one for treatment.

Physiotherapists receive continuous training

All 30 physiotherapists working with the FSHS across the country provide direct appointments.

Riska estimates that at her own service unit in the FSHS’s southern service region, local and remote appointments are divided more or less equally. Local appointments are more common elsewhere in Finland, partly due to the coronavirus situation.

”The FSHS has provided more training for physiotherapists on this new arrangement, and it’s fantastic that already over 80% of students with musculoskeletal complaints come to a direct appointment”, says Riska who is preparing a doctoral thesis on direct appointments with physiotherapists.

Last year, the FSHS began to introduce direct appointments. The aim is for over 90% of students with musculoskeletal complaints to be treated by physiotherapists.