Asmara – Physiotherapy Center in progress

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by Semhar Mebrahtu

When Asmara Physiotherapy Center was set up in 1997, few people were aware of its benefits. Through time, however, physiotherapy treatment started to get acceptance by people due to the positive results it showed on patients.

At the beginning the center had few professionals and physiotherapy rooms. In the years that followed, the center grew in facility and personnel. Physiotherapy students who graduate with diploma from Orotta Medical School are assigned to the center to apply what they have learned in class. To improve physiotherapy services training is given to these students in partnership with Ministry of Health. Through this the center has been able to develop its human resources.

The head of the Asmara Physiotherapy Center, Mr. Berhane Hayalu, said that the number of patients has increased dramatically owing to the effective treatments such as acupuncture, electrotherapy, cryotherapy, heat therapy and body movement physiotherapy given in the center. Annually, 80% of the patients show successful results from the treatment. Besides, patients are able to get relief from severe pain and have been prevented from cases that may cause permanent paralysis.

Mr. Berhane said that physiotherapy is a physical therapy that deals with restoring and maintaining functional movement, reducing pain and promoting health of individuals. Physiotherapy treats a wide array of conditions that include spinal pain and injuries ( e.g. disc prolapse), headaches, sport injuries, fractures such as broken arm, musculoskeletal problems, post-surgical rehabilitation (following a knee replacement), arthritic conditions(e.g. osteoarthritis), neurological disorders and diseases(e.g. stroke), cardiothoracic conditions(e.g. chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders), pediatric conditions(e.g. cerebral palsy)and etc.

The types of physiotherapy treatment vary and depend on the patient’s particular muscular or skeletal condition. Often, physiotherapy treatments are specifically made for one person and may not be the same for another with the same condition. Treatments are “tailor-made” for particular problems and goals.

In its formative years, the center used to focus on physiotherapy exercises or body movements for patients and through time new technologies such as electrotherapy treatment were introduced. Electrotherapy is a range of treatments that uses electricity to reduce pain, improve blood circulation, repair tissues, strengthen muscles and promote bone growth, and leads to improvement in physical functioning. Electrotherapy units usually consist of a battery-powered device connected by wires to adhesive electrode pads which are placed on the skin. The electrode pads are sticky and adhere to the skin. Electrotherapy has a great function in the treatment of diabetic nerve pain, fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, wound healing and stimulating bone growth.

Similarly, Cryotherapy /Cold therapy is effective in minimizing pain and swelling, especially in acute (immediate) injuries. It may also be used just after Deep Kneading Massage (DKM). Examples of cold therapy are ice pack application and ice massage. Heat therapy is applying heat to a patient’s body which can help improve the patient’s blood flow, particularly at injury spots, thus speeding up the recovery. In addition, it can help soften tight tissues and relieve pain. At the Asmara Physiotherapy Center there are several heating modalities and devices available including hot packs, paraffin wax bath, Infrared heat, ultrasound (US) and diathermy which all contribute to muscle treatment.

Mr. Berhane said that there are certain conditions that can weaken human muscles. Thus, physiotherapy strengthening exercises are important parts of physiotherapy rehabilitation to help patients return to their original performance or highest possible function. Soft tissue mobilization or therapeutic massage may be part of the physiotherapy treatment to relax tight muscles, relieve pain and reduce swelling. Other physiotherapy treatments such as Joint Mobilization, Gait (Walking) Training / Assistive Device Training, Postural Training, Ergonomic Training, Balance Exercises, Traction, Taping, Bandaging and Fitting of Orthosis are given to patients in the center. Another important aspect of physiotherapy rehabilitation is patient / family education. Patients learn so much from their physiotherapist particularly about their own experience and condition, what they can do at home to manage their symptoms and precautions.

Acupuncture physiotherapy has been given at the health center for a while. Initially, two physiotherapists were sent to china to learn acupuncture. Later on, several physiotherapists learned acupuncture. It is an ancient healing practice of traditional Chinese medicine where thin needles are placed at specific points in the body, and it is primarily used to relieve pain and other conditions.

The head of the center, Mr. Berhane, said that acupuncture physiotherapy seems to be successful on the patients seeking to release the flow of the body’s vital energy (or “Chi” in Chinese) by stimulating points along fourteen energy pathways. Scientists say that the needles cause the body to release endorphins and may boost blood flow and change brain activity. Acupuncture needles are very thin, and most people feel no pain or just a little pain when these needles are inserted in the body. Most patients say that they often feel energized and relaxed after treatment. However, the needles can cause temporary soreness. Acupuncture reduces law-back pain, headache, Fibromyagia, arthritis pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, Dental pain etc.

Mr. Berhane said that initially physiotherapy services were given by few physiotherapists but later with the courses that has been given by MoH more young physiotherapists were recruited.

Mrs. Arsema Arefaiyne and Mrs. Lula Osman, young physiotherapists working in the center, said that it is a great opportunity to enhance their knowledge and profession at the center. They also said that the course they took for two years were not enough since it was just theoretical. As a result, the center gave them a chance to practically learn from the senior physiotherapists and they are now giving services to patients.

Mr. Berhane recommended that people should take care of their lifestyles, particularly regarding food habits, and focus on physical exercises. Physiotherapy specialists recommend that people should adopt the habit of exercising in their daily lives because it reduces the possibility of suffering from hypertension, diabetes and the like