Taking Steps Towards Healing: When to Turn to Physical Therapy for Pain, Injury and to Unlock Healthier Aging.
Dr. Chris Daily
PT | DPT | OCS | CSCS
Physical Therapist and Golf Performance Specialist
As we step into our 50s and beyond, our bodies often present new challenges in terms of mobility and pain management. However, the evolution of physical therapy offers a beacon of hope.
This blog delves into the latest research and developments in physical therapy and how to know when you might need some yourself!
Physical Therapy and Anxiety Disorders: A groundbreaking study from Sweden, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, involved 286 patients diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Participants underwent a 12-week exercise physical therapy program. The results were remarkable: the exercise groups had 3.6 times higher odds of improved self-reported anxiety scores and 4.8 times higher odds for depression improvement compared to the group who did none. This study shines a bright light on the mental health benefits of physical therapy, particularly among older adults facing anxiety and depression.
The Long-Term Benefits of Cardio Fitness: A deep study involving 2,962 individuals, published in JAMA Network Open, examined the impact of cardiovascular health and exercise in midlife to reduce chronic health conditions later on. Spanning over two decades, this study found that better cardiovascular fitness in midlife greatly reduced the risk of hypertension, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and other chronic conditions. This shows the importance of maintaining physical fitness, especially as we age, to prevent such diseases.
Exercise and Knee Osteoarthritis: Addressing a common worry among those over 50, a study in Arthritis & Rheumatology with 5,065 people scrapped the myth that physical activities like running or biking increase the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis. The study concluded that these activities had a "non-significant" effect on knee osteoarthritis, encouraging older adults to stay active without fear of joint damage.
Physical Activity and Parkinson's Disease: In a nationwide groundbreaking study of 10,699 people with Parkinson's Disease, published in JAMA Neurology, researchers found that all intensities of physical activity and therapy reduced mortality rates. This effect was even more pronounced in people who remained physically active before and after their diagnosis. This highlights the critical role of physical therapy and regular physical activity in improving outcomes for Parkinson's patients.
Reducing Dementia Risk Through Physical Activity: A new study in the Journal of Neuroscience explored how physical activity affects dementia risk. Researchers analyzed the brains of deceased individuals who had reported their physical activity levels for years. They found that physical activity reduced the proportion of morphologically activated microglia, which are associated with brain inflammation and dementia. This research suggests that maintaining an active lifestyle can be crucial in reducing the risk of dementia, a concern for many in their later years.
Therefore, knowing when to consider physical therapy for pain, injury or just to stay on top of things is really essential. Here's an informative guide I've written on when to seek the expertise of a physical therapist like myself.
- Persistent or Recurring Pain: If you're experiencing ongoing pain or pain that comes and goes over time, it's a sign that you should consult a physical therapist. This is especially true for joint pain, common in people over 50.
- Post-Surgery Rehabilitation: After surgery, especially orthopedic surgeries like joint replacements, physical therapy plays a crucial role in regaining strength, flexibility, and function.
- Injury Recovery: If you've suffered an injury, whether it's sports-related, a work injury, or due to an accident, physical therapy can help in the healing process and prevent further complications.
- Limited Range of Motion: Difficulty in moving a joint through its full range, stiffness, or tightness can indicate the need for physical therapy. Therapists can work to improve flexibility and reduce discomfort.
- Balance Issues or Falls: Physical therapy is beneficial for those experiencing balance problems or who have a history of falls. Therapists specializing in vestibular therapy can address these issues effectively.
- Chronic Health Conditions: Conditions like arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or stroke often benefit from physical therapy to manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
- Functional Limitations in Daily Activities: Difficulty in walking, climbing stairs, or performing daily tasks are indicators that physical therapy might be needed to improve functionality and independence.
- Preventative Care: Physical therapy isn't just for recovery; it's also for prevention. If you're at risk of certain injuries or conditions due to lifestyle or age, seeing a physical therapist can help prevent future problems!
- Dissatisfaction with Current Function: If you're unhappy with your physical abilities or struggling with pain and don't see improvement with other treatments, physical therapy offers a tailored approach to help you reach your goals.
Physical therapy stands to show the incredible adaptability and resilience of our bodies, even as we age. It's a journey of reclaiming independence and embracing a lifestyle that values mobility and wellness.
For anyone over 50 looking to overcome physical challenges and enhance their quality of life, the doors to physical therapy are wide open, backed by promising research and a holistic approach to health.
It's important to note that physical therapy differs from other treatments like chiropractic or massage. It focuses on teaching patients to help themselves, providing tools for life and well-being. Access to physical therapy may vary; some states allow direct access, while in others, you may need a referral. Insurance coverage is also a consideration.