Physical Therapy: An Oldie, but a Goodie


If you’re a senior citizen, the challenges of recovering from an injury or illness can be debilitating. Your activity level might decrease significantly, and pain and movement impairments can drastically limit your ability to live independently. However, the pain and difficulty of participating in everyday activities doesn’t have to be a life sentence: physical therapy (PT) can help.

A physical therapist is a musculoskeletal expert whose primary goal is reducing your pain and improving your mobility. Through physical therapy, he or she will help you recover strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility with gentle exercise, massage, and other modalities (like ultrasound, joint manipulation, or electrical stimulation). When you are stronger and feeling more stable and balanced, you’ll notice that everyday tasks become easier to accomplish.

If you have have fallen, or are at risk for falls, a therapist will rehabilitate your injuries and develop a comprehensive plan of care to prevent falls in the future. Additionally, you might benefit from the use of assistive devices—like canes and walkers. Physical therapists can help with those, too. Even arthritis can be treated with PT, particularly through the use of aquatic exercise, which takes the stress of gravity off of the joints, and non-invasive electrical stimulation, which can increase circulation and reduce pain.

As you age, osteoporosis also becomes a concern. You might be wondering how quickly it can progress and how bone loss could affect your quality of life. Weight bearing exercises (supervised by a physical therapist) can slow the progression of osteoporosis by stabilizing and strengthening the body’s core, allowing for better posture. If performed earlier in life, exercise can even prevent the onset of osteoporosis altogether.

Poor balance can affect your ability to participate in daily activities, as it increases the risk of falling. It also may prevent you from the activities you normally do to stay active—by walking around the block or attending your favorite exercise class, for example. With the help of a physical therapist, you can improve core strength and limb coordination, which will help keep you stable while playing with the grandkids and working on your tai chi poses.

PT can reduce your need for medications and can even prevent the need for some surgeries. Something else to consider: You can receive treatment in the comfort of your own home. PT can help you recover from stroke, falls, illness, chronic conditions, and pain and can help you regain your independence and quality of life. This is true whether you’re young—or simply young at heart.

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