Donna Rice felt a nagging pain in her thigh muscles. Rice, 65, who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, has been a runner for more than 40 years. Even when she was in pain, she didn’t like to stop walking. It was the key to her social life, her well-being and the quality of her life in general.
She was relaxing, stretching and massaging – things she thought she should do. I thought it might get better on its own.
But she didn’t. Even after 5 months nothing has improved. Rice knew it was time to see a physical therapist. It’s something I noticed more as she got older.
“Sometimes you can get away with ignoring things, but less so as you get older,” she says.
Her therapist described her as a progressive exercise program tailored to her injury. She gradually built up her strength without weighing down her body. After a few months of continuous work, Rice is back in business again.
Without it, her recovery would have been much more difficult and might not have happened at all. That’s because physical therapists offer “fitness with clinical precision,” says physical therapist Jane Schirokobrod, of Elliott City, Maryland.
A good physical therapist doesn’t just ask where it hurts and gives you some exercise, says Shirokobrod. They take the time to assess your specific movement patterns and create a customized plan to help you increase your strength and move better and with less pain.
This can be especially helpful in older adults, as physiotherapists can identify problems that may not seem like a big deal but could lead to bigger problems in the future.
As you age, your body changes. You begin to lose more muscle and bone mass and may have trouble with tasks that were previously easy, such as climbing stairs or getting out of your chair. Your sense of balance may decrease and you may feel more tired, weak, and achy.
“When you help people deal with pain sooner, they are less likely to lose strength and mobility. If they maintain their strength and agility, they can move around and stay active. You can help keep them safe and independent in their own homes,” says physical therapist Abby. Bales, DPT, of Reform Physiotherapy in New York.
For example, Rice, an Arizona runner, was looking for treatment for her hamstring injury. But she soon discovered an additional effect of regular physiotherapy sessions: her balance improved. With better balance and strength, Rice is less likely to fall.
This is more important than you think. According to the CDC, one in four seniors falls each year. Every year, falls cause bone fractures, head injuries and other problems, especially among the elderly. This can make it more difficult to move around and live independently on your own, especially as you get older.
“Physical therapy can make a huge difference from a daily life perspective,” says Rice. Your quality of life in general revolves around your ability to move around your home and participate in daily activities. it’s huge.”
You don’t have to wait for it to hurt
You may think physical therapy is only necessary after an injury or surgery, such as a fall or knee replacement. However, physical therapy can help in a variety of conditions.
- Osteoporosis (osteoporosis). More than half of those over the age of 50 suffer from osteoporosis. Regular physical therapy can improve bone health and reduce bone loss.
- arthritis. Your physical therapist can prescribe exercises and treatments that reduce pain and increase your range of motion so you can do more things.
- Dizziness (dizziness).. A specially trained “vestibular physiotherapist” can help you with balance and dizziness issues such as lightheadedness, and an inner ear problem.
- nervous Circumstances. These include diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. Physical therapy can help improve your ability to complete daily tasks and keep you safe. “By working the musculoskeletal and nervous systems together, you can improve functionality in all areas,” Bales says.
- cancer. For some types of cancer pain, a PT can ease the pain and keep you strong enough to continue your personal and work life. Physiotherapist Cynthia Gormizano Suissa, a survivor of Hodgkin lymphoma (a type of cancer), awaits a lung transplant. In her weakened state, it is very important that she does her PT exercises so that she can take care of herself for as long as possible.
- incontinence. With age, it is common to lose urine or always feel the need to. It can be awkward, uncomfortable, and uncomfortable, and reduce the likelihood of socializing and exercising, which can be detrimental to your physical and mental health. Specially trained physical therapists can teach you how to contract, relax and coordinate your pelvic floor muscles so you can reduce this problem.
How family and friends can help
Navigating a new PT test program for an older loved one can be challenging. Start by being as supportive as possible, but try not to get too involved.
If necessary, help them choose a physical therapist who understands their goals and physical needs, Palese says. You can also help guide them through Medicare or other payment options.
Go ahead but don’t insist on going on the first date together, she says. As you leave, you can help keep track of her questions and take note of the information the therapist provides.
Additionally, you can try gentle reminders to help your loved ones stay responsible and consistent with their PT appointments and exercises. It’s okay to ask if they need help with their exercises. If walking is part of the selected program, you can offer to participate in it. And if transportation is a problem, you can offer to have it.
But experts say there is a fine line between helping and prodding. Try not to nag or pamper her, as this can sometimes be counterproductive and have the opposite effect.
Where can I find a physical therapist?
If you think you or a loved one might benefit from physical therapy, talk to your doctor. They can suggest some doctors who are able to address your specific needs. Also ask a friend or colleague if they have any recommendations. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has an online tool for finding a physical therapist in your area. In some states, you can see a physical therapist without a referral from your doctor.
Contact your insurance company or APTA for more information.