5 Benefits of Physical Therapy
Clients come to BiFulco Medical Group with a vast range of ailments, injuries, and concerns. In some cases, what they are dealing with is new; an accident or injury that has changed their lives significantly and they require immediate assistance. In others, they are dealing with years or decades of pain due to a chronic condition or trauma. It doesn’t matter how long you have dealt with your affliction; physical therapy modalities can deliver significant benefits in recovery.
What is Physical Therapy?
There is a vast array of medical specialists working in the physical therapy field. At its core, however, physical therapy programs are designed to address losses in range of motion, loss of strength, painful conditions, altered balance, and decreased endurance. A physical therapist works with patients of all ages and all conditions. According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), “Physical therapists diagnose and treat individuals of all ages, from newborns to people at the end of life. Many patients have injuries, disabilities, or other health conditions that need treatment. But PTs also care for people who simply want to become healthier and to prevent future problems.”
It’s not uncommon for us to learn, while treating someone new, that they have stopped physical therapy as part of a home health or outpatient discipline because they have been told they’ve plateaued in their recovery. Insurance companies also try to tell the injured party that they no longer need this type of therapy or they will no longer pay for it anymore. In fact, many times there are still a myriad of potential benefits. By switching practitioners or altering the type of physical therapy you are receiving, gains can be made and lost ground can return. As we talk about the five primary benefits of physical therapy below, keep in mind that it’s never too late to get started — or set different goals and see a new therapist.
#1: Recover from Injury or Trauma
Combined with occupational and speech therapy, along with other types of support, physical therapy is an important methodology for trauma recovery. Much of a patient’s prognosis in recovery hinges on the aftercare available to that person. A therapist will often take a two-pronged approach in treating a victim of severe injury or trauma:
- Assisting with trauma from a physical perspective (addressing pain)
- Understanding trauma from a psychological perspective (rebuilding a healthy outlook on life)
#2: Build Muscle Strength and Endurance
Any injury affecting the musculoskeletal system will impact your muscles and how well they function. Working with a professional ensures proper technique as muscles are tested, stretched, and put back into use. Movements can range from very simple (toe raises) to walking or riding a stationary bicycle, or lifting small amounts of weight to much more complex movements.
#3: Reduce Need for Medications and Surgery
A great deal of study has been done determining how physical therapy work reduces the future need for additional pain medications or surgery. Even if surgery is ultimately required, physical therapy exercises can strengthen and improve mobility so that recovery is faster. Take, for example, stiff and arthritic knees. This is a condition the majority of adults face after age 50. Working on joint movement through stretching and weights can mitigate much of the discomfort and help the knee to last longer without surgical intervention.
#4: Improve Your Balance and Prevent Accidents
Here’s another arena in which physical therapy can help just about everyone: 75 percent of Americans above 70 are diagnosed with “abnormal” balance. Add in injury or a chronic condition, and the patient is exceedingly prone to falling down and hurting themselves further. In this study, just 8 weeks of regular PT exercise resulted in “significant improvements in muscle strength, flexibility, and balance.”
#5: Improve and Eliminate Pain
Benefit #5 may seem like an obvious one but it is worth reiterating. So many injured Americans accept a lifetime of chronic pain following a diagnosis or an accident. This does not need to be the case. PT can also help to overcome fatigue and sleep issues, which plays a tremendous role in pain management. Not to mention — pain relief through movement vs. through painkillers is the more sustainable and preferable option. Blood and nerve flow are no longer hindered. Physical therapy massage and joint stimulation improve range of movement to then impact mood, blood pressure, weight control, and a whole host of other factors.
I want to emphasize: I am never an advocate for wasting time or money where there is not opportunity for improvement. In many cases, it is worth the investment to continue physical therapy, with a range of therapists and techniques. In some but cases, this practice should continue for life at some interval to prevent losing gains. Older folks rapidly lose muscle mass due to inactivity or the natural progression of aging. When injury is added to the equation, these circumstances accelerate. During an acute period of injury recovery physical therapy may be required 2-3 times per week. As immediate concerns are mitigated, this can be reduced. It is important to remember that stopping therapy in some cases can cause a worsening in your condition.
Physical therapy is a key element of a life care plan for all of the reasons listed above. To learn more about life care planning and physical therapy benefits, contact my office today.