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Benefits of Physical Therapy for Seniors

— by Michelle Gonzalez in Health, Fitness and Wellness
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Physical therapy is not only for individuals recovering from an injury or accident, it is also helpful for seniors who are experiencing health issues associated with aging, such as arthritis and fatigue. There are so many ways the elderly can benefit from physical therapy. Aside from providing a safe environment for conditioning, it also helps strengthen the body and improve balance. Physically therapy is particularly important in assisting seniors improve their strength, balance, flexibility, and range of motion after a fall accident. Learn the many benefits seniors can achieve from physical therapy.

Relieves Pain and Swelling

Pain and swelling from injury or illness can limit the mobility of older people, and undergoing physical therapy provides relief from these. There are specific treatments used by physical therapists such as manual therapy, exercises, and cold and health therapy to relieve seniors from pain and swelling.

Treats Age-Related Conditions

Physical therapy addresses several common health issues in seniors, including stroke, arthritis, incontinence, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease by enhancing strength, balance, and range in motion. According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), physical therapy helps to restore or increase seniors’ strength, endurance, flexibility, range of motion, and coordination.

Prevents Falls and Injuries

Falls are a major cause of serious physical injury among seniors. According to statistics gathered by the American Academy of Family Physicians, 30% to 40% of seniors aged 65 and above who are living in senior communities experience at least one fall every year. This rate is much higher for those who are living in nursing homes. Physical therapy is an essential factor that helps reduce seniors’ risk of falling by improving their balance, coordination, flexibility, and strength. It also treats the physical injuries arising from these falls.

Encourages Independence

Being capable of living independently is probably one of the biggest benefits that physical therapy offers to seniors. Adding physical therapy to a senior’s health care regimen is a recommended to help address particular health issues and improve their overall health.

Types of Physical Therapy

Manual Therapy. This type of physical therapy for seniors is performed using the hands of the therapist. The goal of manual therapy is to help the patient relax, reduce their pain, and help them become more flexible. Massaging the muscles and the body’s soft tissues help relax the patient, improve their circulation, as well as relieve pain. Mobilization through slow movements such as twisting and pulling the joints and bones into place help loosen tight joint tissues and increase their flexibility. Pain relief is achieved through manipulation, using fast, forceful movements that re-aligns the joints and bones.

Cold Therapy. This type of physical therapy involves 15- to 20-minute ice pack sessions, ice massage, and RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation). Cold therapy effectively relieves pain, swelling, and inflammation.

Heat Therapy. This therapy is good for relaxing the muscles and improving blood circulation, which helps loosen stiff joints from osteoarthritis or other conditions that causes immobilization. Heat therapy is also good for loosening the muscles before exercise.

Hydrotherapy. Water is used to treat diseases and to maintain overall health. Hydrotherapy helps heal soft tissues, increase blood flow, and relax the whole body. This therapy uses water to treat different conditions, including arthritis and related rheumatic complaints.

Electrical Stimulation. During this type of physical therapy, electrical current is used to create a specific effect in the body. Electrical current can be used to mask pain signals so the patient does not pain. It can also be used to contract the muscles of stroke victims as well as seniors suffering from arthritis. Electrical stimulation physical therapy is usually performed in conjunction with cold laser therapy for better healing.

Ultrasound. Ultrasound therapy involves high-pitched sound waves that help reduce muscle spasms and relax the muscles before and after exercise.

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