There is often confusion about the role of a Biokineticist.
Ask any Biokineticist, it is their biggest frustration. People don’t know who they are, or what they do.
Granted, there are a lot of similarities to Physiotherapy and personal training, the two disciplines that are most frequently referred to when you mention Biokinetics. But they are not Physiotherapists, nor are they personal trainers. But they do fill the void between the two. The reality is that you can actually be seen by all three, at the same time (no, not the same consultation, but the same time period). Conjunctive care is possible provided that there is no distinct overlap of services. The best management of your injury/condition is a patient-centric approach, not an egocentric approach. Your needs have to be taken into account and for that to happen medical professionals and trainers need to play as a team, not as individuals.
Image 1) Team play: Below is an info-graphic of a hypothetical treatment team scenario.
So when can a Biokineticist help you?
The answer in terms of “time” on a timeline is quite contentious, particularly with the scope of Physiotherapy (Scope: Physiotherapy) and Biokinetics (Scope: Biokinetics) being discussed at the HPCSA (Health Professions Council of South Africa). The time frame also depends on the injury/condition.
Certain skills/services are not within the scope of Biokinetics and most likely never will be. As a rule of thumb the Biokineticist you see should provide you with exercises. Their primary role is exercise rehabilitation. In the scope of practice document reference is made to the role of the Biokineticist commencing when exercise is the primary modality of care. ie: when 51% of your session with a primary care giver becomes exercise you can start to consider seeing a Biokineticist.
When it comes to rehabilitation you as the consumer have the power to choose who you wish to see. However, it is important to know what is in scope and what is not. If you choose to see a personal trainer for injury rehabilitation and something goes wrong their liability cover may not come into effect as they are not qualified or insured for exercise rehabilitation. The same applies to Biokinetics, if you are seeing a Biokineticist and they are treating you out of their scope you may not be covered.
Image 2) Biokinetics? Below is a guide of how a Biokineticist can help you (please note that not all Biokinetics practices are the same)
Orthopaedic / Injury rehabilitation:
The branch of medicine that deals with the prevention or correction of injuries or disorders of the skeletal system and associated muscles, joints, and ligaments is called orthopaedics. You can see a Biokineticist for an orthopaedic injury, depending on the nature and severity of your injury. You may require to have clearance from a Doctor/Physio/Chiro/Osteo before commencing your exercise rehabilitation. Each injury needs to be assessed on a case by case basis. If the injury is too acute the Biokineticist must refer you on/back to a Doctor/Physio/Chiro/Osteo.
In terms of a treatment timeline you can see the Biokineticist for the initial consultation and programme and then decide on weekly training based on the nature/severity of your injury, as well as your compliance to exercise rehabilitation. It may be necessary to see the Biokineticist more frequently in the early stages of rehabilitation and then slowly wean off into independence. Please note that it is not implicit that you see the Biokineticist weekly. You can visit them sporadically provided that you are compliant with your exercise rehabilitation programme.
Chronic disease risk reduction and reversal:
The treatment timeline for chronic diseases will be different to orthopaedic injuries. Due to the nature of the illness/disease you may require ongoing guidance. This does not imply weekly sessions and a huge financial burden. You can see a Biokineticist sporadically or join a group class. However it is important to stress that just going for the initial consultation will not be sufficient. Once off sessions are not beneficial as you will need guidance and someone to monitor your progress.
High performance and general conditioning:
Athletes who are injured, have been injured in the past, or who just need planning/guidance can see a Biokineticist. A Biokineticist can assist with a structured exercise programme and plan, no matter what level of competition or the nature of your sport. The Biokineticist can address the athletes needs with supervised sessions or comprehensive exercise programmes. The Biokineticist is not your coach and will never replace the role of your coach. They are there to mentor and guide you as part of the training team.
The general gym goer can see a Biokineticist if they have not trained in a long time and need guidance to navigate the complexity of the gym environment. The Biokineticist is not stealing from personal trainers, the Biokineticist is there to work along side trainers for guidance and input. You can start with the Biokineticist and progress to the trainer once you have improved your fitness and strength.
If you are a seasoned gym goer and you struggle with the occasional ache and pain you can see a Biokineticist to work on form and technique. The Biokineticist can give you input on injury advice and injury avoidance. They are more like a mentor that you touch base with when the need arises. If you have an acute injury the Biokineticist may refer you on to a Doctor/Physio/Chiro/Osteo.
You can see a Biokineticist for a fitness assessment depending on your medical aid and medical aid rewards scheme. The goal of the fitness assessment is obviously to get points so that you can enjoy the rewards. However, it can be so much more. It is a window into your current health and well being, and a starting point for Biokinetics training. The Biokineticist can use the information from the assessment to assist you with your training goals. Unfortunately this is not part of the fitness assessment itself. It is a stand alone service that will require you to come for a follow up consultation (with cost implications).
Million dollar question:
With so many people offering the “same” service it is hard to decide. It is best to do your homework on your individual condition and whether it responds with exercise. Sometimes ego’s get caught up in the referral process on both sides. But you as the patient have the right to choose who you would like to see. The burden of care rests with the individual therapist/trainer to know when they are out of their depth. Most people will benefit from seeing a Biokineticist, but there are some people who will need additional care before they start. The best thing to do is to ask. Reach out to your local Biokineticist/Doctor/Physio/Chiro/Osteo and see if you are a suitable candidate.
The best advice is to keep well and keep exercising.