The Importance of Physical Therapy for Seniors

Physical therapists holding blue tapeWhat if there was a non-drug treatment for arthritis, incontinence, the effects of a stroke and even Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s? The good news is, there is – it’s physical therapy, and it is working wonders for individuals over the age of 65.

This month is National Physical Therapy Month, and the perfect time to talk about the very important role physical therapy is playing in the lives of seniors. In addition to providing pain management for everything from arthritis to chemo, and helping to rehabilitate seniors after a fall, injury or surgery, physical therapy has proven to be a highly successful treatment for many ailments associated with older age.

After a stroke, paralysis on one side of the body is common, but the loss of mobility isn’t necessarily permanent. Physical therapy helps to stimulate affected muscles and nerves, maintain circulation and prevent stiffness, even before voluntary function returns. Both physical and occupational therapists also work with patients to retrain their brains, improve balance and coordination, and relearn everyday skills.

If diagnosed with osteoporosis or low bone density, physical therapy can improve posture and help build bone, or lessen the amount of bone loss in areas prone to fracture, such as the hip, spine and arms. Physical therapists can also show seniors which exercises and movements to avoid, and provide healthy exercises designed to improve dynamic balance and prevent falls.

While the natural inclination is to move less with arthritis, the lack of movement actually makes joint pain and stiffness worse. Physical therapy encourages safe movement and teaches arthritis patients how to work out stiffness without further damaging joints. Occupational therapy is also recommended to show seniors how to reduce strain on their joints during daily activities.

As woman age, their pelvic muscles tend to weaken, resulting in urinary incontinence. Physical therapy can actually help alleviate leakage by teaching seniors how to tone and strengthen their pelvic floor muscles through Kegel exercises. Other methods include bladder training and biofeedback to manage urges and regain control of muscles.

Physical activity has been proven to improve memory and decrease the risk of depression that often accompanies Alzhemier’s, but it is also believed that it may delay the onset of the disease. In addition, physical therapists regularly work with dementia patients to help them maintain mobility and function. They may use mirroring, hand over hand techniques and other methods to help patients move and complete tasks.

While the neurological damage caused by Parkinson’s disease cannot be reversed, physical therapy can improve independence and quality of life for Parkinson’s patients by increasing movement and function, and relieving pain. Physical therapists provide special exercises to strengthen and loosen muscles, as well as improve balance, coordination and fatigue.

Physical Therapy for Seniors in the Capital Region
All of the independent senior living communities, enriched housing/assisted living and memory care communities within Eddy Senior Living now have onsite physical therapists and occupational therapists for our seniors. For more information about our physical therapy and occupational therapy in Troy, Slingerlands, East Greenbush, Niskayuna and Queensbury NY, contact us or call (877) 748-3339.