Physical therapy is a treatment provided by a licensed medical professional. Many times physicians prescribe physical therapy for a patient after they have had surgery or an injury to help aid their recovery. Physical therapists have endured countless hours of training as well as studied biology, anatomy, and physiology in their college coursework. Doctors send their older patients to therapy so that they can restore their quality of life, and most importantly, independence.
Older adults need particular attention when it comes to a physical therapy routine because there is much to consider. Most senior citizens have problems with balance, arthritis pain, and a host of other physical ailments. Some diseases that are common in older adults are Osteoporosis, which weakens the bones and causes loss of bone density. Parkinson’s Disease, which causes the individual to lose control of their muscles gradually over a long period of time. Then, many seniors have dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. As a matter of fact, all these illnesses contribute to falls. Approximately one in four older adults fall every year; many of which result in a broken bone that requires an operation. After a fall,
According to the website, Medicare.com (https://medicare.com/health/what-is-physical-therapy-for-seniors/), the American Physical Therapy Association says that “in some cases, physical therapy may help you avoid surgery for conditions such as Degenerative disc disease, Torn rotator cuffs, Osteoarthritis in the knee, Meniscal tears, and Spinal Stenosis.” An individualized physical therapy program can also promote healing in addition to reducing your pain level, improving your strength, flexibility, balance, and overall daily activities.
So, what are some of the common ailments that can impair older adults and how can physical therapy help?
- Parkinson’s Disease – as mentioned above, this disease causes slow deterioration of the muscles According to WebMD.com (https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/features/physical-therapy-benefits-for-seniors#1), if you are a person who has Parkinson’s, physical therapy will benefit you because the therapist will give you exercises to increase the strength in your upper body. The activities you will perform will prevent you from making rigid movements. Instead, you will have smooth and fluid movements.
- Strokes – A stroke affects one side of the brain which damages the opposite side of the body. For example, if the left side of the brain was damaged, the right side of the body is weak and needs to be rehabilitated. However, with physical therapy, the brain can grow new cells, and the body is strengthened and retrained to function like it used to. Some of the exercises that the therapist may have you do is to use your weak side to perform your daily tasks, like brushing your teeth, combing your hair, or eating a meal. By using the side that was not affected by the stroke, you are growing new brain cells, as well as retraining your limbs to remember different tasks that they used to perform.
Some of the basic exercises that your physical therapist may have you do are,
- Wall pushups
- Back leg raises
- Marching in place
- Side leg raises
- Toe Lifts
- Single limb stance
All these exercises focus on strengthening the muscles and improving your balance. As your body becomes stronger and as your balance progresses, you will be less likely to fall and hurt yourself.
One of the most important things to seniors is to maintain their independence and to have a good quality of life. Physical therapy is an excellent way for you to establish this in your life as you get older and help you achieve these goals.