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October is National Physical Therapy Month

Sarah Stevenson
By Sarah StevensonOctober 6, 2017

One of the most effective ways to treat chronic pain and recover from injuries is physical therapy. It can also help seniors prevent falls and maintain overall fitness.

Learn more about how physical therapy can help you or a senior loved one this October, in honor of National Physical Therapy Month.

National Physical Therapy Month

Physical therapy helps people alleviate pain from chronic conditions like arthritis, avoid surgery and recover from injuries — but did you know it can also help people stay fit and flexible as they age, preventing injuries from happening in the first place?

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This year’s focus for National Physical Therapy Month, which takes place every October, is “#ChoosePT, a campaign [that] lets consumers know about the risks of opioid use and that physical therapy is a safe, non-opioid alternative for managing pain,” according to the  American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

Alice Bell, a physical therapist and spokesperson for APTA, told Post 50, that our growing population of aging adults will spark an increasing demand for physical therapy.

By 2030, Bell says, 20% of the population will be 65 or older, and as many as 40% of those will be coping with some sort of disability.

“Much of that disability will be preventable,” Bell states. Even seniors who are sedentary can benefit from exercise programs devised by physical therapists.

Physical Therapy for Senior Loved Ones

Whether your loved one is active, coping with illness or injury, or sedentary, a physical therapist can help create an exercise regimen that suits his or her specific situation. Even the ordinary physical changes that come with aging — balance loss, reductions in mobility — can be delayed, prevented or even reversed, providing a critical defense in preventing senior falls and reducing their risk of injury.

In the article, Bell noted that the key factor in deciding whether physical therapy is necessary is pain:

“Experiencing any kind of pain would be a meaningful trigger because pain’s not normal at any age,” and getting to a therapist early on is critical so the situation doesn’t get worse.

Physical therapy also has a number of other benefits, according to the APTA: it can help seniors recover from stroke, help them cope with the physical effects of chronic illnesses like diabetes, and in some cases it can even alleviate pain without medication. So if your senior loved one would benefit from increased balance and mobility, greater fitness, or simply a reduction in physical pain, physical therapy could be an excellent option for non-invasive treatment.

Tips for Staying Fit After 50

The APTA recommends working with a physical therapist to help prevent:

  • Obesity, which further increases the risk of chronic illness and injury
  • “Over-exercising,” which sends almost 2.5 million baby boomers to the hospital every year
  • Reductions in balance, flexibility and strength that make it a challenge for seniors to stay fit

This year’s Fit After 50 award for most fit city for baby boomers went to San Jose, California, who garnered the top spot out of 50 cities the APTA looked at. They scored high in fitness, health insurance and life expectancy, and they had low rates of chronic conditions like heart disease.

A few tips to remember:

  1. A regular exercise program should include light strength training to improve balance, as well as aerobic activity and stretching.
  2. Even if you’ve been physically active throughout your life, you may need to modify your workout regimen to accommodate the changes that come with aging.
  3. Find an activity you enjoy, because you’ll be more likely to stick with it. A physical therapist can help you modify the activity to accommodate any limitations you might have.
  4. Know your limits, and pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you need to back off from a particular exercise, or even rest for a day or two to let your body recover, do it, and then ease back into your regular fitness routine.

How has physical therapy benefited you or your senior loved ones? Share your stories with us in the comments below.

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Sarah Stevenson
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