The Importance of Physical Therapy for Seniors
Physical therapy (PT) is often necessary for anyone recovering from an illness, injury, or surgery. Because healing may take longer for older adults than younger patients, a consistent PT program is needed to help restore strength, movement, and mobility. PT also helps manage pain, which can significantly improve quality of life.
Though you may not have to break a sweat on the treadmill, manual PT can restore or improve the strength and coordination of the muscles used in everything from signing your name to walking around the block. And for older populations, pain, joint stiffness, weakness, and loss of mobility can impact independence.
Manual PT performed by physical therapists helps decrease pain, increase flexibility, and reduce limitations in older adults after injuries or surgery. Manual PT can address issues as diverse as range of motion, gross motor skills, and fine motor skills. Programs may include stretching, passive movements, massage, and gait training.
Strength Training/Resistance Exercises
Strength training or resistance exercise increases muscle strength by making muscles work against a force. Resistance bands, weight machines, and free weights are all forms of strength training.
Though injuries and surgeries can cause muscle loss, most muscle loss in older people is due to inactivity. Strength training can specifically address an injured area as well as reverse weakness due to inactivity.
Depending on a patient’s needs, strength training can also benefit muscles in the abdomen, chest, and back. In older adults, stronger core muscles improve balance and stability, which decreases the risk of falls after recovery.
Almost anyone who has explored some sort of sport or workout understands the importance of warming up to increase flexibility and prevent injuries. When recovering from surgery, restoring flexibility is a key goal.
Stretching techniques for improving flexibility have evolved over the years, but the concept is intuitive: muscles need to be able to stretch.
Static stretching involves activating a muscle and holding the position. Other approaches alternate contracting and stretching muscles to increase their length. As with any sport, PT focused on flexibility will involve warming up, working out, and cooling down.
Lack of strength and balance in older adults can lead to a fall. According to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death for Americans 65 and older. PT focused on balance plays a key role in reducing this level of mortality.
Most balance training regimens for seniors are a relatively simple combination of exercises that improve strength and flexibility. They may use a variety of forms of PT, but the ultimate focus is improved balance.
Physical Therapy for Seniors Increases Successful Recoveries
No matter what form of rehabilitation you need, PT is often beneficial for seniors for more than one reason. Whether someone is looking to lower the risk of re-injury, improve balance, or reduce the risk of falling, PT can help accomplish one or multiple goals to help reduce the risk of injury.
One of the overlooked benefits of PT treatments is that by reducing pain, a patient is less likely to need continued medication. Although acute pain may require a prescription, most would agree that PT is a cost-effective form of treatment that can reduce dependence on medicine.
Finally, and perhaps most important, fully recovering from a surgery or injury is one simple way for older adults to maintain an independent lifestyle.
Where to Find Physical Therapy for Seniors in the Twin Cities
Physical rehabilitation for seniors can be demanding, so good PT professionals also tend to be encouraging coaches who understand the mechanics of restoring movement and coordination to injured areas.
Walker Methodist’s therapists design programs based on an individual’s specific needs and goals. Our certified professionals have experience helping people with mobility, strength training, balance, pain management, and performing daily activities.
Our Method Rehab program provides seniors with the tools they need to recover from surgery, injury, or illness. Through a unique approach to providing PT and easily accessible locations in the Greater Twin Cities Metro Area, Walker Methodist offers a variety of PT options for older adults and their families.