October is National Physical Therapy Month. We know the power that physical therapy holds for all kinds of patients, especially seniors. Seniors face a decline of overall health as part of the aging process, and also from various medical conditions. Fortunately, physical therapy provides a measure of relief from pain, supplemental treatment of several common health conditions affecting seniors, and a reduced risk of falling.
One of the primary reasons for seeing a physical therapist is to ease painful or swollen parts of the body. Physical therapists have a variety of treatments at their disposal. They may have you do exercises that target a particular part of the body. They may take a more hands-on approach of manual therapy. They may use cold or heat therapy. It’s likely that they will use some combination of these and other treatments, all with the goal of relaxing and/or strengthening your muscles, making you more flexible, and easing your pain.
There are myriad health conditions that affect older people. Physical therapy can be an effective way to treat some of the most common ones. By targeting different aspects of your body, such as balance, strength, range of motion, coordination, etc., physical therapy can help treat the following conditions:
Physical therapy is also important when treating physical injury. In seniors, a major cause of serious physical injury (sometimes fatal injury) is falling. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (citing other research):
Between 30 and 40 percent of community-dwelling adults older than 65 years fall each year, and the rates are higher for nursing home residents. Falls are associated with increased morbidity, mortality, and nursing home placement.
Falling is a very real and dangerous problem facing older people. Fortunately, physical therapy can help prevent falls in the first place. This is because physical therapy makes you stronger, more flexible, more coordinated, and improves your balance. Each of these boosts helps you decrease the risk of a serious fall.
By easing pain, treating many health conditions that affect seniors, and preventing falls, it only makes sense that physical therapy can make you more independent. We’re not saying physical therapy is the magic cure for everything (if only there was such a magic cure). But we are saying that adding physical therapy to the health care mix is a great way to solve pesky issues, prevent others, and improve your overall health. And improving your overall health improves your ability to live life to the fullest.