As people age, their bodies lose a lot of the flexibility and mobility that they once had. This makes it difficult to walk, move, and do all of the physical activities they once could. This is especially detrimental when recovering from an injury or accident. Recovery from bodily injuries can take much longer to bounce back from, if ever, in the elderly. That’s why it’s essential to incorporate exercise and physical therapy into daily routines and find a proper physical therapist right after any injuries. There are a few types of physical therapy for elderly individuals that they can do as both preventative and recovery measures to improve mobility and overall quality of life.
Why is Physical Therapy Important for Older Adults?
Physical therapy is highly important for older adults for many reasons: not just for recovering from injury. The benefits of physical therapy for seniors include:
- Improved strength and flexibility. Our bodies naturally lose muscle mass as we age, and building that back in our later years can help with balance, coordination, flexibility, and mobility.
- Lowers risk of injury. The more mobile and strong someone is, the less likely they may have a serious injury from a trip and fall. Strong leg muscles help to maintain balance while walking, and strengthening the arms and wrist can help protect limbs from breaks or sprains from bracing oneself during a fall.
- Recover more quickly from a fall or injury. If an accident does happen, physical therapy beforehand can help speed up the recovery process. If the limbs were stronger before, the injury could be less severe and make for faster healing. Plus, it can be easier to jump into (and maintain) physical therapy after an injury if you had been doing it prior.
- Need for less pain meds. If someone has experienced a physical injury, or regularly takes ibuprofen or pain meds for aches and pains may get to put away that bottle. Physical therapy can recuperate the body to the point of no longer needing medication to manage pain.
- Improve chronic conditions. Chronic pain or chronic conditions can gain some relief thanks to physical therapy. Any physical activity, in general, can help boost blood flow, oxygen levels, and endorphins to boost mood and fight pain.
- Allow for more independence. Physical therapy can give seniors back some of their independence. It can help move them away from relying on a cane or walker to get around and they can bring themselves to the bathroom or get dressed without a ton of assistance.
Common Types of Physical Therapy for Seniors
There are actually various types of physical therapy depending on what the individual needs and what area they want to target. Physical therapists know how to target the right areas to strengthen the body overall and regain function in joints and boost mobility in various ways. It’s not a one-size-fits-all strategy and the type of PT matters a lot.
Orthopedic Physical Therapy
Orthopedics is the medical practice of treating bones or muscles, a.k.a. the musculoskeletal system. This type of therapy primarily focuses on treating bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, and the muscles attached to them. When someone has orthopedic surgery like knee or hip replacement, this type of physical therapy will help them gain back that mobility in the bones and muscles associated with the injury or surgery. This is very common and critical to ensuring individuals can return back to their original physical form, or close to it, after a trauma.
Neurological Physical Therapy
After traumatic brain injuries or in individuals who have neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or ALS, they still need physical therapy, but of the neurological type. This type of physical therapy actually helps re-connect the mind and body so that these patients can adapt to their new impairments but live a full life. They will learn how to manage mobility and balance as it relates to their condition and rehabs them from traumatic brain injuries that can completely alter both their physical and mental state.
Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy
Elderly people who suffer from heart conditions, or people who’ve experienced a heart attack must also go through physical therapy to recuperate. Cardiopulmonary physical therapy helps work on their heart and cardiovascular system to improve endurance and blood flow. These conditions severely impact how the blood flows and works in the body. This physical therapy is key to ensuring there is life after a heart attack and that they can rebuild their heart health.
Geriatric Physical Therapy
Geriatric physical therapy is an overarching type of physical therapy that covers a number of needs that seniors and older adults face as their bodies age. From cancer to arthritis to osteoporosis, geriatric physical therapy helps these individuals manage pain, balance, and just general motor skills getting around. This can help them achieve more independence free of having to use a walker or wheelchair and improve their quality of life.
A combination of physical therapy, diet, and exercise can help alleviate the pains of aging and assist in rehabilitating from injuries or surgery at an age where the body can’t bounce back as quickly. As we get older, our balance suffers, our muscles and bones get weaker, and we lose a lot of flexibility. Thanks to all of the different types of physical therapy for the elderly, people can live long healthy lives without having to rely on pain medications or a sedentary lifestyle.
Luckily, when you live in Sunflower Communities, you have access to many specialty therapies and services including physical, speech, and occupational. Contact us today to get started!