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Making your living in a hands-on kind of way
If your body has ever been bruised, banged up or even bashed in a car accident you may have met the skillful hands of a physio, chiro or osteo. Perhaps you too want to work with bones, joints, or muscles and have a desire to help clients in an up close and personal way. Because clients may be injured or in pain you will also need to bring mindfulness, compassion, a positive attitude and the ability to listen to the table. Problem-solving and communication skills are key in these careers as is the ability to motivate your patients. Finally, you better be a sturdy sort yourself, able to knuckle down and undergo the rigorous professional training required.
1. Osteopathic manual practitioners
Osteopathic manual practitioners treat a variety of conditions, including asthma, muscle and joint pain, migraines and headaches. These practitioners, who have an in-depth knowledge of anatomy, view the body as a whole, searching for and treating the cause of the problem, rather than dealing with the symptoms. Osteopathic manual practitioners “improve or restore the normal physiological function of interrelated body structures and systems, and, enhance the body’s natural ability to health itself,” according to the Ontario Association of Osteopathic Manual Practitioners (OAO). Like the other practitioners discussed here, these professionals do not use drugs, instead relying on non-invasive manual techniques.
Osteopathic practitioners use palpation to feel or sense the state of the body's tissues or systems, looking for congestion, dehydration, scarring, stiffness, density or loss of resilience. They use precise and gentle manipulation techniques to treat restrictions in tissue (muscles, ligaments, nerves and joints) so that the body can move freely.
Osteopathy is gaining widespread recognition and there is a growing demand for osteopathic manual practitioners in Canada, according to Marcee Rosenzweig, president of the OAO. Because these practitioners are so rigorously trained there is a greater demand than there is supply, she adds. Osteopathic practitioners generally work in private practice or as part of a multidisciplinary health clinic.
In Ontario, there are only two osteopathy schools recognized by the OAO. In Toronto, you can train at the Canadian College of Osteopathy (CCO), which offers a five-year Diploma in Osteopathic Manual Practice. To enroll in the CCO program you must hold a degree and be licensed as a health care practitioner. (If you don’t meet the prerequisites a supplementary pre-admissions program is available.) The Canadian Academy of Osteopathy in Hamilton provides a Master of Osteopathic Manual Science Program. The OAO’s executive director, Elizabeth Leach, notes that many of the association’s members come from health-related fields such as nursing, physiotherapy or kinesiology.
Although osteopathic manual practitioners are sometimes called osteopaths, in Canada this title is used by osteopathic physicians. These doctors, who are recognized and regulated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, are trained exclusively in the United States from a college approved by the American Osteopathic Association. All Canadian-trained osteopaths are properly called osteopathic manual practitioners.
The Ontario Association of Osteopathic Manual Practitioners is working to become a self-regulated health profession with the future goal of regulation under the Regulated Health Professions Act.
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Physiotherapists assess injuries and disabilities of clients and create rehabilitation plans. Generally, they try to help improve the movement in a client's joints and reduce pain. To do this, they use stretching and strengthening exercises and joint mobilization as well as modalities like electrotherapeutic stimulation (in which a low frequency current is used to activate and train a muscle), ultrasound, laser and acupuncture. In addition to treating people with physical injuries, physiotherapists also deal with burn patients and people recovering from strokes, spinal cord injury and a range of other conditions.
According to Leslie Beck, a physiotherapist interviewed for Jobs People Love, the most satisfying part of the job is seeing a very sick person progress to becoming functional. Beck, who emphasizes the need for adaptability, also notes: “Every patient is different, will respond differently to your treatment and you have to be able to adapt to provide the best care that you can and since every person is an individual, there's a hundred different ways you can provide the best quality service.”
Physiotherapists work at hospitals, health clinics, sports organizations and rehabilitation centres, and some open up their own practice. According to the University of Toronto Department of Physical Therapy, physios are increasingly becoming involved in research and teaching in universities. Employment prospects are good for physiotherapists, according to Ontario Job Futures, which notes that the demand for physiotherapists should continue to rise in response to the needs of an aging population. In addition, “[m]edical advances continue to increase the survival rate of trauma victims, heart attack and stroke patients which will increase the demand for ongoing rehabilitative care.”
For this career, you need a master's degree in physiotherapy from a Canadian university, a period of supervised practical training and successful completion of the Physiotherapy Competency Exam. In Ontario, you must be registered with the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario. Locally, the University of Toronto offers a two-year Master of Science in Physiotherapy Degree for those who have completed a four-year undergraduate degree. U of T delivers a bridging program for internationally educated physiotherapists.
If you are interested in the field but do not want to pursue a master's degree, one option to consider is becoming a certified athletic therapist or a physiotherapist assistant. A number of colleges in Ontario offer programs for this latter occupation.
For More Information:
- Ontario Physiotherapy Association
- NextSteps.org: Profile of a physiotherapist
- Physical therapy for a frozen shoulder
Chiropractors diagnose, treat and help prevent mechanical disorders of the spine and other body joints. Most clients visit these health professionals because they have back or neck pain, although they may soon discover that chiros can treat a range of conditions, from frozen shoulder to knee injuries to migraines.
To diagnose problems, chiropractors review medical histories, examine clients and interpret X-rays. One of the main parts of the job is making manual adjustments and manipulations to a client's spine. Chiropractors also use various other manual therapy techniques such as ART (active release techniques) as well as acupuncture, electrical stimulation, ultrasound and laser therapy.
In addition, they must be able to manage their time well and possess keen observation skills. Considerable hand dexterity, rather than strength, is needed for adjustments and manipulations of the spine. Those who plan to set up their own practice, as many do, need strong entrepreneurial skills. Ontario Job Futures notes that the rapid development of new diagnosing and treating technologies means that chiropractors must continually update their skills.
The only English-language chiropractic school in Canada is the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto, which offers a four-year program for students who have completed at least three years of undergraduate work. Although the college does not have course prerequisites, it is recommended that prospective students have a science background. (The Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières [UQTR] has a French-language chiropractic program with a few spots for non-Quebec residents.) Chiropractors in this province must be registered members of the College of Chiropractors of Ontario, which examines, registers and regulates the profession.
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* This article was adapted from an earlier version entitled Get Your Hands on Four Healing Careers
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