As we celebrate National Physical Therapy month, let’s take a moment to thank all the wonderful professionals who help Americans achieve victories, both large and small, over their physical challenges. And then let’s delve a bit deeper and discover the many reasons why physical therapy can be a great choice for the beloved elders in our lives.
While we often associate physical therapy with recovery from extreme events like serious injury, illness and strokes, that’s certainly not the only way physical therapy can be a boon to the elderly. In fact, the American Physical Therapy Association tells us that over 70 million Americans age 50 and older are living with a chronic condition that could benefit from physical therapy. That’s why many millions of seniors are choosing physical therapy — to improve the overall quality of their lives in ways like these:
Increasing balance and preventing falls
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Prevention, a full one-third of people over age 65 fall every year. That makes falling the number one cause of injury among seniors. Physical therapy can help seniors build their strength and improve their balance, thus avoiding the risk of bone fractures and other debilitating injuries.
Reducing the danger of osteoporosis
Speaking of bones, it’s well known that our bones become less dense and more brittle as we age. This change, called osteoporosis, makes serious injury a real risk to seniors. Targeted exercises designed by a professional physical therapist will help reduce that risk, supporting stronger bones and better posture.
Improving mood and alleviating depression
If you’ve ever enjoyed the benefits of a brisk morning walk, you know that exercise makes you feel good. There’s a scientific reason for this, and it’s all about endorphins. These chemicals, which are produced naturally in the body, can relieve pain, ease feelings of stress or frustration and reduce feelings of unhappiness or depression. The gentle exercise in physical therapy actually causes the body to release endorphins — and helps our elders to feel happier.
Physical therapy can include specific pelvic exercises which help seniors strengthen important pelvic muscles. Our loved ones can learn to locate these muscles and use them correctly to control their bladders and reduce the incidence of this embarrassing problem.
Easing the effects of arthritis
Many seniors suffer from the stiff joints and impaired range of motion that accompany arthritis. A good physical therapist can create an exercise program designed to loosen up those joints while preserving and even improving the ability to move freely. Among the many pain relief techniques — cold or hot treatments, water therapy and activity modification, to name a few — your elder is sure to learn ways to manage and reduce the pain of chronic arthritis.
With their deep knowledge of body systems and their well-honed problem solving skills, physical therapists are able to help seniors achieve improved mobility, reduced pain, and greater independence — and that’s a lot! We salute all our talented physical therapists during this month, and thank them for all they do.