Health And Wellness

Physiotherapy in Singapore: 5 Misconceptions

Published on 30 May 2023

Did you know that 50 percent of Singaporeans are experiencing pain on a regular basis?1

If you too suffer from aches and body pain, you’ll be glad to know that you can fix those pesky stiff joints and shoulder knots.

Physiotherapy, also known as rehab, has been effective for many in restoring and maintaining one’s mobility, function, and well-being. Yet there are some common misbeliefs that often discourage people from physiotherapy, even when it’s much needed.

In this article, we will help you to separate fact from fiction. We address five common misconceptions and explain how physiotherapy really works, and how you can benefit from it.


Misconception #1: “Physiotherapy is only for treating sports injuries”

People often associate physiotherapy with treating sports injuries, but you don’t have to play sports or be injured to see a physiotherapist. In fact, physiotherapists help seniors who have become frail, or clients with a loss of balance and coordination.

At NTUC Health, we specialise in both regular and senior-friendly rehabilitation so people of all ages can benefit from therapy. Our friendly physiotherapists can work closely with you to provide pain management, injury prevention and rehabilitation.

Not sure if your physical discomfort is severe enough to warrant a session of physiotherapy? If it’s still bothering you after two weeks, chances are it’s not going away without treatment.2 Here are some conditions that may benefit from physiotherapy:

  • Musculoskeletal conditions like back, knee, neck and shoulder pain, arthritis, spinal conditions, ligament tears and reduced mobility
  • Neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, brain and spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, and stroke
  • Cardiorespiratory disorders and post-Covid-19 deconditioning3
  • Loss of balance and coordination

Misconception #2: “Physiotherapy is just exercise”

This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions about physiotherapy. While a regular session is likely to include some strengthening exercises to help with muscle strength and mobility, there are many other treatment methods therapists use to manage various conditions.

A typical session varies depending on individual requirements and the type of issue. For instance, manual therapy is often used for joint-related conditions. Not to be confused with massage or even massage therapy, this technique requires skilled hand movements to carefully mobilise the affected joint. It’s particularly effective for increasing the range of motion, as well as to reduce swelling and relieve pain.

Electrotherapy techniques like therapeutic ultrasound may also be used for soft tissue injury and swelling management. These might help you achieve the optimal function of your body.

Apart from direct physical intervention, education is also commonly included in a treatment plan. Physiotherapists will be able to teach you proper lifting techniques, and even recommend changes to your environment such as proper office setup to reduce strain on joints and improve posture. In addition, they are also able to address any concerns you may have about pain relief, fall prevention, sports and work injuries, and the dos and don’ts of recovery.


Misconception #3 “Physiotherapy is inconvenient for people with mobility issues”

It can be a pain to commute to a therapy centre for every treatment, especially if mobility is a problem. But gone are the days of having to leave the house every time you go for physiotherapy.

Many therapy centres now offer tele-rehabilitation services which you can easily access for regular rehab services in the comfort of your home through a video call, hurray! If you are unable to travel out of your home, home therapy service, where our physiotherapist visits your home to carry out the session, might be an option for you.

Do note that with NTUC Health, our new clients are required to go to a Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy Centre for their first consultation and assessment. Tele-rehabilitation or home therapy is only offered based on one's needs. After that, following sessions can be fully conducted online or via a house visit.

Some therapists can also conduct caregiver training and share insights to make it even more convenient for you or your loved one to get the proper assistance at home.


Misconception #4 “If surgery can fix my condition, I don’t need physiotherapy treatments”

You might be interested to know that multiple studies have shown that physiotherapy combined with medical and lifestyle management may be just as effective as surgery for those with back pain.4 It’s a great alternative if you fancy a less invasive solution to an early stage condition.

In the event where you do need surgery, doctors may also recommend pre-surgery rehabilitation as it has been shown to improve the clinical outcome and recovery, particularly for rotator cuff tears, lumbar spine disorders such as lumbar spine stenosis, degenerative disc disease and knee replacement surgery.

Want more post-surgical independence? Don’t skip the pre-surgical rehabilitation sessions with your physiotherapist! These enhance the body’s stamina and response to inflammation, resulting in less post-operation pain, better restoration of range of motion, and shorter recovery periods for patients.


Misconception #5 “I need a doctor’s referral to see a physiotherapist”

It is not mandatory to get a doctor’s referral to undergo physiotherapy in Singapore. However, it would be good to check if your physiotherapist is a licensed allied health professional who can independently evaluate and diagnose injuries.

An experienced physiotherapist will be able help you find the underlying causes of your knee pain, muscle aches, backache and any other symptoms that may require attention. Individuals with underlying conditions can still choose to consult a doctor to determine the appropriate level of intensity before starting on therapy.

While you might not need a doctor’s referral letter for physiotherapy, you may need one for the purpose of an insurance claim for your treatment. To be sure, do check with your insurance company if your health insurance covers the cost of physiotherapy and if they require you to produce a doctor’s referral for successful insurance reimbursement!


Now that we’ve addressed these misconceptions about physiotherapy, we hope that they no longer stop you from getting the help you need!

NTUC Health offers a range of affordable physiotherapy services. Our physiotherapists can help to manage a wide range of conditions, such as lower back and neck pain, and post-surgery rehabilitation. They are registered with the Allied Health Professionals Council. Our physiotherapy and rehabilitation centres are located at multiple locations in Singapore.

Feel free to read our FAQs or drop us an enquiry here. Schedule your first appointment with us today!

1 Pain prevalence statistics in Singaporeans (Source)

2 How long should one wait to seek treatment for backpain? (Source)

3Physiotherapy critical to recovering strength after Covid-19 infection (Source)

4Physiotherapy just as effective as surgery for some conditions (Source)

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