What do Paediatric Physiotherapists and Exercise Physiologists do?
by Ben Hall
Paediatric Exercise Physiologist
Director of Ocean Kids Health.
If I got a dollar every time someone asked “what’s the difference
between a Physio and an Exercise Physiologist”… I’d be rich!”. This
is a very common question that our therapists and admin team at Ocean Kids Health get asked all the time. In this blog, I’ll chat about what a Paediatric Physiotherapist does, what a Paediatric Exercise Physiologist does, how they differ and how we work together. Happy reading!
Generally speaking, most people know what a Physiotherapist is – however not everyone knows why babies and children need to see a Physio!?
Our Paediatric Physiotherapists are specialists in global development
including milestones, sensory systems, movement and play skills. They understand how babies learn, move and play. At every age, and at every stage, we know what’s normal, what’s expected, and what’s next in your baby’s development. Paediatric physiotherapists also have expert skills in the assessment, identification and treatment of child development and movement difficulties. A Paediatric Physiotherapist is often the first person your Paediatrician, GP or Maternal Child Health Nurse will refer you to if they have any concerns about your child’s physical development.
During a therapy session with a Paediatric Physiotherapist, they typically assess, diagnose, and develop a complete treatment plan for your child; provide education and advice, a home exercise program, resources, and ongoing therapy for your child when required.
- Hands on Physiotherapy to treat musculoskeletal injuries and
- Sporting biomechanics assessments
- Gait and posture assessments
- Footwear and equipment advice
- Providing home exercise programs
- Working closely with our Exercise Physiology team to provide
ongoing exercise based therapy
- All delays in reaching motor milestones
- Abnormal gait including toe walking, in-toeing, limping and hip
- Acute injuries such as sprains, strains and pains
- Children with movement and strength difficulties
- Neurological conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, Stroke,
Dystonia, Acquired Brain Injury
- Low muscle tone and High muscle tone
- Genetic conditions including Downs Syndrome
- Joint Hypermobility and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, ‘floppy and bendy joints’
- Medical conditions such as Congenital Heart Disease and Cancer
- Rheumatic conditions such as Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
- Sensory Processing Disorders where children seek or avoid movement or tactile input
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- All sporting and acute injuries, including ligament sprains and muscle strains
- Hypermobility and Ehlers Danlos Syndromes
- Post surgical management of fractures
- Growth-related injuries (Perthes, Sever’s, Osgood-Schlatters Disease)
- Joint pain and swelling
- Headaches and Neck pain
Paediatric Exercise Physiology
Exercise Physiology is an ever-growing area within the Paediatric space!
It’s a discipline that generally isn’t as well understood, so I’m here to explain some of the key things we do.
Paediatric Exercise Physiologists are university qualified allied health professionals that are specially trained to understand the complexities around working with children living with illness and injury. They work with doctors and other allied health professionals to ensure your child’s safety and well-being. They also have the skills and knowledge to prescribe effective exercise interventions that are individualised to your child’s specific needs.
Our team of Paediatric Exercise Physiologists at Ocean Kids Health specialise in intervention for children aged 2-12 years old. They provide exercise-based intervention, education, home exercise programs, resources, hydrotherapy and intensive therapy programs to assist your child to maximise their physical skills and participation levels at home, day care, kinder, school and the community.
Paediatric Exercise Physiologists help children prevent or manage diseases/conditions, provide rehabilitation post injury or surgery, manage unhealthy weight, along with enhancing your children’s fitness and participation levels in sports and activities. They work closely with Paediatric Physiotherapists to provide exceptional outcomes for children to do all the things they love!
Often our Exercise Physiologists are called ‘Physios’ – which we often jump in and say “I’m not actually a physio, I’m an EP”. We love providing education on what we do and how we can help your children progress their development and thrive!
- Children with movement and strength difficulties
- Neurological conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, Stroke, Dystonia, Acquired Brain Injury
- Hypermobility and connective tissue disorders
- Sensory Processing Disorders (where children seek or avoid movement)
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (level 1 & 2)
- Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
- Respiratory and Cardiovascular conditions (e.g. Asthma)
- Childhood Cancers
- Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)
- Global Developmental Delay (GDD)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Comprehensive fitness and motor skill assessments
- Intervention for children returning to sport after an injury
- Intervention for improving motor and sports skills
- Biomechanical sporting and postural screenings
- Gross motor skills training
- Water-based therapy sessions (hydrotherapy)
- Sports and ball skills training
- Digital sessions (telehealth)
- Bike riding skills training
- Asthma and cardiovascular condition management
- Childhood cancer exercise management
- Education for schools and groups
Physiotherapists AND Exercise Physiologists.
A lot of times Physiotherapists and Exercise Physiologists are made out to be competing professions but they are actually complimentary!! Not just here at Ocean Kids Health but across the allied health sector, Physios and EP’s will work alongside one another.
Physios predominately diagnose and treat conditions using a variety of hands-on manual skills, providing education and prescribing exercises whereas EP’s will assess and manage conditions using exercise and movement, alongside providing education. There are quite a few parts of our roles that do cross-over, which is why our team of Physios and EP’s at Ocean Kids Health work together so well!
If you would like to know more about either Paediatric Physiotherapy or Paediatric Exercise Physiology – we love talking about what we do, so don’t hesitate to reach out!!
Thanks so much for reading, hopefully you’ve learnt something about Paediatric Physiotherapists or Paediatric Exercise Physiologists!
Stay tuned for the next blog!