Some call them masseurs, others simply ignore their existence.
Yet, physiotherapists and rehabilitation therapists play a vital role in the healthcare ecosystem.
The industry worldwide has grown by leaps and bounds thanks to medical advancement. A recent report by Verified Market Research showed the global physiotherapy equipment market was valued at US$14.35 billion in 2018 and is projected to reach US$22.18 billion by 2026.
Education, or rather the lack of it, has somewhat impaired the industry’s true potential in Malaysia.
Many tend to think of massages, bekam (cupping) or rely on Dr Google before resorting to physiotherapy.
The other challenge is the lack of standardised rates which see services ranging from a RM50 to RM300 per session.
Twentytwo13 speaks to three experts from Damansara Sports Medicine and Rehab Therapy Centre – physiotherapist Neng Jadd-Menn and rehabilitation therapists Lee Rou You and Kok Jun Ee – on the challenges faced and ways to make people understand the need for physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
For the record, Lee and Kok are former national athletes.
Lee, who turns 25 next month, was part of the national table tennis team and played in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, among others.
Kok, 25, a taekwondo poomsae exponent, competed in his third and final SEA Games in the 2017 edition in Kuala Lumpur. He is also the marketing executive of the centre.
Here are their insights:
Do people know what you do?
Neng: Not really. There are those who think we are just masseurs. It can get quite frustrating as physiotherapists have so much more to offer.
What is the one thing you hate to hear?
Neng: ‘Still the same’ … meaning that the pain has not gone away. Also, it’s quite irritating when some people doubt our capabilities, citing something they read online or what their doctor has said.
What made you take up physiotherapy?
Lee: While training I used to hurt my knee. But my coaches would always push me. Some coaches think we are simply saying it’s painful to take a break from training. But that was not the case.
And then I realised the importance of physiotherapy and rehabilitation therapy.
Even my parents used to complain of aches and pains in their shoulders and knees, so that motivated me to understand the subject better.
Many are active these days, so naturally the number of injuries will rise. What are the most common issues?
Kok: Knee injuries, back and neck pains. Those are pretty common. You have those who are active, especially in running and cycling, but they don’t warm up or do enough stretching before they start their activity.
You have those who are hooked on the digital appliances like notebooks or handphones and this causes you to hunch your back and hurt your neck.
People are not sitting and walking right these days too, hurting their posture.
Who was your youngest patient?
Neng: I was in Bangalore, India for a two-month attachment several years ago when I was working at the paediatric ward. I had to help a one-year-old baby who was blind and suffered from celebral paralysis and deafness. It was emotional for all of us who worked on the baby.
Lee: I’ve attended to an eight-year-old who suffered from scoliosis.
Kok: Me too. But we have also seen a rise in the number of younger children suffering from ACL injuries.
Are your parents supportive of your career path?
Kok: They have been extremely supportive.
Lee: My parents told me to do what I love doing. The ability to help a patient get better makes me happy.
Neng: They have been supportive.
How do you change people’s perception about physiotherapy?
Neng: I know some people would rather get a massage, go for bekam or even refer to stuff online only to finally visit us. I wish they seek help from the experts first instead.
Once you step into a physiotheraphy centre, you will realise that the prices are reasonable. Physiotherapy will help speed up your recovery and that’s important, especially if you lead a healthy lifestyle or want quality life.
Kok: People undervalue what we do. They just don’t get it that they spend so little but they get so much done within the one or two hours they are with us. It’s actually value for money.
With the advancement of technology, do you think the role of a physiotherapist will change in time to come?
Neng: Perhaps. Right now we already have online physiotherapists where people carry out their work via Skype and use other tools of communication.
I prefer to see a person in flesh so as to understand his or her problems better. But the industry will naturally evolve and so will we.