Physiotherapy is a science-based health care profession which emphasises the use of physical approaches in the promotion, maintenance and restoration of an individual's physical, psychological and social well-being and takes into account an individual's variations in health status. The physiotherapists’ expertise helps to identify and maximise movement potential through health promotion, preventive healthcare, treatment and rehabilitation. A distinctive feature of physiotherapy practice is the ability of individual practitioners to use advice, manual therapy, therapeutic exercise and electro-physical therapy in an integrative manner to optimise an individual's functional ability and potential. Physiotherapy is an autonomous profession and practice is characterised by reflective behaviour and systematic clinical reasoning, both contributing to and underpinning a problem-solving approach to patient-centred care. Physiotherapists operate as independent practitioners as well as members of multi-professional health care teams. They are able to act as first contact practitioners, and patients may seek direct care without referral from another health care professional.
A challenging aspect of physiotherapy is the broad scope of practice in terms of patient and client groups, health care delivery settings, and intervention for problems of impairment, activity and participation. Physiotherapists provide a substantial teaching and advisory role to the public and many patient and client groups. The qualified physiotherapist also provides mentorship for students and colleagues and therefore utilises a range of communication and teaching skills.
Physiotherapy practice makes direct reference to published research evidence, as well as indicators of effective intervention in the form of professional and clinical standards and clinical guidelines. Practice is informed by physiotherapy-specific research as well as the general scientific literature, and in this way all physiotherapists engage in evidence-based practice.