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Seniors & Physical Therapy

Seniors & Physical Therapy

October is National Physical Therapy Month, so we wanted to talk a little bit about physical therapy (PT) and some benefits it might hold for you or the seniors in your life.

What is PT, and what happens there?

PT, or physical therapy, is a tactile, movement-oriented approach to bodily health and wellbeing. Physical therapists meet with patients to develop a treatment plan for any variety of medical problems. These plans use a variety of treatment techniques all focused on increasing the patient’s movement, reducing pain, and restoring function.

Instead of relying on drugs or supplements to get you feeling good, PT focuses on drug-free, holistic healing. PT is a safe and effective alternative to opioids and other potentially problematic or addictive drugs.

Senior PT specially focuses on different combinations of stretching, walking, massaging, hydrotherapy, and electrical stimulation, among others approaches.

How can PT help me?

Physical therapy isn’t just for recovery. You can use PT as a preventative technique, or a way to get stronger and prepare your body for potential future falls, injuries, or surgeries. PT helps to relieve pain and restore physical functions, like flexibility, strength, balance, and coordination.

According to Shelley Webb, a registered nurse and founder of The International Caregiver, PT can help seniors in 8 big ways. She outlines them on her webpage, which you can find here:

  • Fall prevention
  • Improvement of overall physical health
  • Assistance with managing cancer treatment
  • Help with incontinence
  • Improvement of cognitive functioning
  • Improved quality of life
  • Infection prevention
  • Decreased pain

In the words of Sharon Dunn, PT, PhD and president of the American Physical Therapy Association, National Physical Therapy Month is “an annual opportunity to recognize the physical therapy profession’s efforts to transform society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.” The whole idea behind PT is to make life easier. So, if you or anyone you know could benefit from a little physical day-to-day help, PT might be a good option to consider.

How PT can help treat specific conditions

PT can do a lot to help treat chronic illnesses and diseases. Here are a few of these conditions and how PT can help, courtesy of the Franciscan Ministries webpage on seniors and physical therapy, which you can find here.

  • Arthritis: Most people 65 and older have some form of arthritis in their spine and may not present any initial symptoms or pain. PT’s utilize physical techniques to alleviate any discomfort or prevent any future pain that can occur as a result of arthritis.
  • Stroke: Seniors who have suffered from a stroke most typically experience loss of muscle strength on one side of the body. Treating this symptom, PT’s use a constraint-induced movement therapy method in which the good limb is restrained, allowing the individual to focus on strength training for their weaker limb, stimulating the part of the brain that controls movement and restoring proper function to the affected limb.
  • Incontinence: Working with seniors to identify specific muscles and how to use them correctly, PT’s can assign pelvic exercises that increase strength to the muscles controlling the bladder.
  • Parkinson’s Disease: Approximately 1.5 million Americans have Parkinson’s Disease, with the condition most often affecting those 65 years or older. Although this disease in seniors remains irreversible and progressive, medication and physical therapy can help improve trunk flexibility, decreasing the involuntary robotic movements associated with the disease.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease: PT’s work with seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia to create exercises that can improve memory functions and delay the onset of more serious memory impairments.

Final thoughts

Physical therapy is a great, healthy, safe treatment option. It can help seniors in their everyday lives and in the treatment of chronic illness & disease. If you think you might benefit from physical therapy, speak to your primary care physician about your options.

We want to hear from you! What experiences do you or a loved one have with physical therapy? What are your favorite physical therapy exercises or techniques? Let us know in the comments below!

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