ALLIED HEALTH: WHAT IS IT AND WHY DO WE NEED IT?
Allied Health is the term used to describe a broad range of healthcare professionals who don’t fall under the category of doctor, nurse or dentist. Allied health practitioners help patients with a range of conditions and illness including diagnosing and treating. Often, their role is to help patients to live their best life possible in terms of health, pain management and their ability to live as close to a ‘normal’ life as possible.
When it comes to healthcare, sometimes navigating the plethora of options can be confusing. Our first port of call is generally our GP, which is a great first step in moving forward with our, or our children’s health issues. By definition, GPs deal with general health issues, but when more specific treatment is required, a referral to a specialist or allied health professional may be needed.
That said, for many allied health services, a referral is not always necessary, but without fully understanding what allied health is and how these practitioners can help, many patients can feel lost in knowing where to start.
So, let us guide you through the most common types of allied health professionals and when you should see them.
Chiropractors help with more than just neck and back pain; their purpose is to remove interference to the body’s natural healing power. It’s a holistic method of treatment that can help with numerous problems. For children, it may surprise you to hear that chiropractic treatment can be successful in assisting with issues such as colic, tongue-tie, digestive issues and behavioural problems.
Generally, physiotherapists help with physical development, rehabilitation and improved movement.
If your child is experiencing physical developmental delays (i.e. there is a significant delay in meeting milestones), they have an unusual posture or they have low tone, a physiotherapist may be able to help. These professionals will work with your child to assess their limitations, set goals for their physical improvement and help your child in their journey to achieving these goals.
If your child has a developmental issue related to their speech i.e., they shutter, are missing speech milestones or struggle to articulate, the obvious choice is to see a speech pathologist. But despite what the name suggests, speech pathology is not simply about speech. Speech pathologists can help with cognitive-communication skills (including aiding cognitive processes related to attention, memory and awareness), social language (including understanding the different ways to communicate and following conversation rules), and even swallowing and feeding issues.
Referred to as OTs, these professionals help people improve their everyday lives by improving their ability to perform tasks. Whether your child has an injury, physical disability, psychological problem or intellectual disability, an OT can help your child develop independent living skills, or maximise your child’s ability to perform tasks themselves. OT treatment is tailored to the individual’s situation.
Osteopaths treat musculoskeletal problems and for children, osteopathy can help with the effects of cerebral palsy, developmental dysplasia on the hips and growing pains. For babies, walking issues and foot pain can be resolved through this type of treatment.
The very word ‘dietitian’ comes with a certain connotation of losing weight and healthy eating, but these professionals deal with behavioural issues and digestive issues, and they can also provide a plan for children with special healthcare needs such as cerebral palsy and developmental disabilities.
Psychologists are trained to help with issues that may prevent children (and adults) from reaching their full potential from a mental standpoint. Managing behavioural issues, helping with coping mechanisms, dealing with emotional challenges and working with patients with anxiety are amongst the most common ways that psychologists help.
And the list doesn’t stop there. There are a multitude of different specialists that you and your child could benefit from seeing depending upon your ailments and issues.
For example, services such as Innate Therapies offer counselling but use a technique called Clayfield to treat children and adults who have experienced trauma. The concept behind this integrates physiological and psychological elements. Through therapy combining touch, patients experience a level of security which helps them overcome PTSD and trauma related problems. You can find out more about this type of therapy at our website, or by visiting www.innatetherapies.com
And sometimes, looking into allied health doesn’t have to be as a result of an issue. It’s important that we know that we’re living the best life possible. Pharmacists are classed as allied health professionals and can help you to understand your body and how to ensure you remain healthy and recover quickly. At Calanna Whole Health Pharmacy, for example, their myDNA tests help you discover the best types of exercise for your body, which foods you should eat and which you should avoid, and how each medicine will affect you (to make sure you’re taking the most effective medication for you). Bree went to try out these tests, check them out below.
Finding the right allied health professional for you may take time as the issue may not be immediately apparent. Working together with your GP can really help point you in the right direction. Sometimes, you may simply want to take steps yourself to figure out which type of therapy works best for you and your child. For many problems, there’s no right or wrong solution. Some problems can be treated just as effectively by one as another. Sometimes a combination of therapies will be necessary. One important thing to remember is that no matter what therapy is needed, it is generally the case that early diagnosis and treatment makes for better results, so if you think your child needs to see a professional, don’t delay.