Interview with Renowned Physiotherapist Rohini Bhat

Rohini Bhat is a physiotherapist from Mumbai with five years of experience helping people of all ages heal using physiotherapy

After working at a paraplegic foundation for over a year, she shifted to the outskirts of the city, in a quiet place close to nature – Madhavbagh, a cardiac rehabilitation center, where she provided rehabilitation to cardiac patients recovering from surgery, besides taking workshops. Here, cardiac in-patients were provided treatment majorly through nature friendly ways by exposing them to Ayurveda and lifestyle modifications which involved everything from morning walks, treadmill tests, bicycle ergometer and aerobic dance forms.

Rohini also provides home treatment to a lot of patients especially those with hemiplegia (one side paralysis), cerebral palsy and geriatric patients.

Let’s hear from her what the profession entails, and what we can do to prevent ourselves from future obstacles that may arise with age and lifestyle changes.

What inspired you to take up this branch of study?

Medicine is a noble profession and physiotherapy, personally, is very satisfying. I saw that while a doctor aids in curing a patient by administering medicine, a physiotherapist is with the patient through their entire process. You spend a lot of time with the patients and you can see the gradual changes taking place. The bond that gets created with the patient through the time spent during their healing process enables you to feel their joy more deeply as they achieve different milestones and it is immensely satisfying to see your efforts bearing fruit. You see the change that you create and you experience their joys, what could be more satisfying?

Rohini with Abhidnya

A story you would like to share, that has touched you deeply?

There are many. I’ll share this story of a cute kid from U.P., one of my private clients. He was barely one and a half years old and had cerebral palsy since birth. Hailing from a remote village which lacked in medical aid and facilities, this child had never been treated for his condition.

It was only when the mother got the child to her home in Mumbai did they decide to look for some kind of therapy for him. When I visited their home and met the child for the first time, I saw that he wasn’t even able to roll on his own, as most kids naturally do. He just lay wherever we placed him, without any movement whatsoever. I started therapy for him and this also involved talking with the family and teaching them some exercises to aid his mobility. Within a couple of weeks, he rolled. Another couple of weeks and he was able to be on all fours. The next milestone was achieved when he started to kneel and then stand with some support. All this was achieved in only two months. The joy on the family member’s faces and the joy I felt watching these changes happen was unmatched.

Rohini, with Nitin, a Cerebral Palsy Patient

Are patients more comfortable at home?

Well, a lot of patients are definitely more comfortable at home especially geriatric patients and those with paralytic conditions. Travelling, waiting long hours at clinics – all of this is avoided and they are in a familiar environment so emotionally too, yes, they are happier and relaxed at home.

What, according to you, are the most common pain points of patients that you may have encountered in your practice? Anything one must one look out for?

The most common conditions that I have encountered are cervical spondylosis or commonly known as ‘spondylitis’, lower back pain and osteoarthritis of the knees. Sometimes, it affects the hips too but in most cases, the knees. These conditions are majorly caused by prolonged sitting, junk food and improper meal times. Sitting for long hours causes obesity which thereby weakens the knees that support the upper body weight. It is very important to make changes to our sedentary lifestyle in order to prevent these conditions.

Demonstrating a wheelchair wheelie – basic wheelchair skills taught in rehab

A favorite memory from your practice? Any stories you’d like to share?

Oh, there are many stories. In physiotherapy, we have to talk to the patients a lot. Typically, a session begins with counselling as a lot of cases we encounter are psychosomatic. Stress can cause bones and joints to pain and we even have a term for these patients, we call them ‘placebo patients’. While they require some therapy, counselling is essential for them to fully recover. Casually starting a conversation with these patients while giving them some therapy helps them to open up.

I remember one such lady who was constantly stressed because her son wouldn’t get married and another lady who was stressed with her daughter-in-law. Her son was newlywed and her daughter-in-law gave her a lot of trouble. Once, both these ladies happened to be together in between sessions. I made them sit together and said, “Look – she is stressed because her son is married and you are stressed because your son isn’t.” It was quite a funny situation. It is important for them to realize that worrying, though human, isn’t always rational and beyond a point, can cause physical problems. Counselling helps them view their situation objectively, and brings a lot of relief to such patients.

Then there was this one Mr. Bhaskar. He was 85 years old and would always tell me, “You are a good physiotherapist but you’re in the wrong profession. You should be acting. All you need is some voice modulation and hair straightening. I can get you to act in a Marathi serial”. He would always make that comment and such advice, coming from an 85-year-old, felt really strange!

My favorite memory though, will always be of an enthusiastic bunch of senior citizens doing the aerobic dance, during my time at Madhavbagh. I fondly remember this group of 80-90 year olds thoroughly enjoying themselves as they danced and most of them were dancing for the first time in their lives. The innocent joy on their faces was something to cherish.

What changes would you suggest to modern day lifestyle to avoid conditions we talked about?

My advice would be to follow the three E’s – Eat Healthy, Exercise and be Emotionally Balanced.

Healthy eating does not mean you go on some kind of diet but one may consume home cooked food and avoid foods that are processed too much. Exercising is very important – the simplest thing you can do is walk for 20 to 30 minutes for five days a week, if not every day. Walking should follow a pattern involving a warm-up phase, an aerobic phase and a cool down phase. This means that one could start with walking at a normal / slow pace for the first 5 minutes, increase the pace and maintain it for 20 minutes and then slow down the pace again for 5 minutes. It is very important to give oneself time and maintain a positive attitude at all times. Pursuing hobbies and interests helps to relieve stress. Women, especially Indian women, I have observed, have a lot of stress surrounding their household, their kids. They need to learn to keep calm and give more time to themselves. Socially engaging oneself is also essential for happiness. And get sufficient sleep.

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