Can Physical Therapy Benefit Older Adults?
Physical therapy is usually one of the first treatments for people who have an injury or chronic illness. That said, it’s generally believed to be an option for younger people, not senior adults. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Physical therapy is an effective way to address many conditions associated with old age, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, incontinence, arthritis and cancer pain.
Let’s learn more about physical therapy and why it may be the best way to improve the quality of life for older adults.
Advantages of Physical Therapy
Physical therapy uses special exercises and equipment to help patients regain their physical abilities. The goal of PT is to get people back to where they were before the injury or illness, but this is not always possible with older adults. At the very least, the hope is to decrease pain discomfort and improve quality of life.
Here are some specific benefits to expect from PT:
- Gain education about your condition
- Manage chronic pain from arthritis
- Prevent common diseases such as osteoporosis
- Support healthy joints
- Gain strength and balance
- Increase mobility
- Maintain independence
- Improve overall strength and ability
Types of Senior Physical Therapy
Physical therapists use the following types of therapies to help older adults manage pain and discomfort:
- Cold therapy. Cold therapy uses ice packs to relieve pain, swelling and inflammation.
- Heat therapy. Heat therapy uses heating pads to improve blood circulation and relax the muscles.
- Manual therapy. In manual therapy, the physical therapist uses their hands to massage or mobilize the affected areas.
- Hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy uses water to relax the body, increase blood flow and support tired, sore joints.
- Electrical stimulation. This therapy uses electrical currents to treat muscle spasms and pain.
Why Seniors Have Plenty to Gain from PT
As the body grows older, it loses strength, flexibility and balance. Many seniors are also at risk for osteoporosis and arthritis. It’s common for doctors to prescribe medications, but these medications are not without risk. Many are hard on the body and cause a host of unfavorable side effects.
Physical therapy is completely drug free and supports overall well-being. Rather than managing symptoms, it can improve them while making the body stronger, more flexible and more mobile. This may end up preventing a fall one day that would have otherwise led to a broken bone. PT is enjoyable and relaxing, offering mental and social benefits as well.