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Healing with a touch

mumbai Updated: Dec 10, 2010 02:01 IST
Sweta Ramanujan
Sweta Ramanujan
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Dr Neha Sinhasan has at least three MBBS doctors in her family. Yet, when her family gets together, relatives rush to her for a cure for their aches and pains.

“They trust me because I use only my hands,” the 24-year-old physiotherapist says.

In a city where your back is at the mercy of the road and sitting at a desk for 12 hours a day is, quite literally, a pain in the neck, professionals like Neha are highly sought-after, especially with people getting increasingly averse to invasive forms of treatment.

“A career in physiotherapy is growing rapidly in popularity these days,” says Heath Matthews, senior physiotherapist at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital. “With the advent of professional sports and the need to excel in human performance, physiotherapy has grown significantly over the past 30 years.”

Neha, who has been practising at Nanavati Hospital in Vile Parle (West) since 2008, initially wanted to be an artist like her father. “But when I found out about physiotherapy, I liked the idea of being able to relieve people of pain in a natural way,” she says, back home from a night shift at the hospital.

These days, a physiotherapist’s job is not restricted to treating sick patients, as Matthews will tell you. “It now has a whole new dimension to it. It can go way beyond that to helping

athletes and the general population achieve their best physical health,” Matthews says.

This is what Neha does during her eight-hour daily shift. She takes orthopaedic, paediatric and neurological cases and also attends to sportspersons. “People in Mumbai are getting increasingly aware of what physiotherapy can do for them,” she says. “Homemakers and people using the computer, which is almost everyone, complain of aches and pains all the time.”

The job also gives Neha a free hand to decide how she wants to handle a case. “I can examine a patient and decide the treatment protocol,” says the Chembur resident whose mother works for a bank.

After serving at the hospital, where the busy outpatient department ensures a steady flow of cases, Neha visits patients at home in the evening. The money a physiotherapist can earn increases with experience and

specialisation. Freshers can earn between Rs 6,000 and Rs 10,000 a month, depending on whether they work for a clinic or hospital and the number of hours they put in. Home

visits can earn you extra income. The minimum fee per visit is Rs 500.

Increasing awareness has prompted most hospitals to set up dedicated departments for physiotherapy. Students are also now choosing this stream of medicine as opposed to just settling for it when they do not make it into the medicine or dentistry courses.

A degree alone will not help, experts say. “If you are considering physiotherapy as a career, ensure you stay updated on all the latest techniques being developed around the world,” Matthews says. “Don’t just treat your client as a knee or shoulder problem. Treat him as a whole person and an individual within his environment.”

While professionals like Matthews choose to practise in India, for many, going abroad is an attractive option. “In countries such as Canada, it is among the top 10 professions. Physiotherapists can earn up to Rs 4 lakh a month abroad,” says Neha, who earns a ‘five-figure’ monthly salary and plans to explore this option next year.

Until then, she shunts between the hospital and home visits. A typical day ends with “Facebooking” or watching Friends. “I love my work,” says Neha. “But I wish it gave me time to play the guitar.”

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