As you get older, your strength, balance, and flexibility deteriorate. You also become more vulnerable to falls, injuries, and chronic age-related conditions. These factors can impact your ability to perform simple daily tasks and prevent you from living as independently as you would like. 

The realities of aging are why many older adults turn to physical therapy to help. There are countless benefits of physical therapy for seniors, from improving mobility and strength to relieving the discomfort of chronic conditions and aiding injury recovery.

Is Physical Therapy Just for Healing After Injury?

Physical therapy is highly beneficial for those healing after an injury or surgery. It’s also great for seniors with chronic conditions and ongoing illnesses. And for those who want to maintain strength and mobility as they age.

Many people experience decreased muscle strength, flexibility, and balance as they age. More than 10 million older Americans also have osteoporosis (brittle bones), and people over 50 are at increased risk of breaking a bone.

These things can make performing many daily tasks increasingly difficult. Which, in turn, reduces independence and overall quality of life. They can also stop seniors from being as active as they’d like and engaging in activities they love. 

Physical therapy can help manage these age-related conditions and reduce the risk of future injuries and problems.

Types of Physical Therapy

There’s a huge range of physical therapy exercises that can benefit seniors. These exercises fall under three main categories.

  1. Range-of-Motion Exercises. ROM exercises help improve joint function and flexibility through active and passive movements. They help reduce stiffness and stretch and strengthen muscles.
  2. Balance Training. These exercises strengthen the legs and core muscles and improve posture control to maintain balance and prevent falls.
  3. Strengthening Exercises. These exercises target specific groups or individual muscles. They help increase muscle strength and slow down the rate of bone and muscle loss that comes with aging.

The specific exercises will depend on your injury, illness, or physical condition. 

5 Benefits of Physical Therapy for Seniors

There are multiple benefits of physical therapy for seniors, from reducing the risk of falls and injuries in the first place to easing pain and discomfort and improving mental health.

Maintain Independence

One of the biggest benefits of physical therapy is that it can improve overall mobility and strength, helping you or your loved one live a more independent lifestyle.

Greater mobility and strength can enhance your ability to perform many everyday tasks on your own, such as: 

  • Getting dressed
  • Climbing stairs
  • Doing laundry
  • Cleaning house
  • Preparing meals

The ability to perform daily tasks with confidence and ease contributes to an overall better quality of life. Seniors can also live in the comfort of their homes for longer. It reduces the need for assisted living or nursing homes.

Reduces Risk of Falls and Injuries

Each year, one out of every four older adults in the U.S. suffers from a fall. And one out of five of these falls results in serious injury, making it the leading cause of injuries in those 65 and older. Common fall injuries include hip fractures, wrist or ankle sprains, and head injuries. 

Physical therapy helps reduce the risk of falls by improving stability through balance techniques and muscle-strengthening exercises.

And falling isn’t the only injury risk for older adults. Due to reduced muscle and bone mass, performing simple daily activities or light exercise can easily result in injuries too. 

Seniors are at a much higher risk than others for muscle tears and broken bones while going about their daily lives. 

Physical therapy teaches you safe ways to remain active as you get older without increasing your risk of injury.

Aids Recovery from Injuries or Illness

Whether you’re recovering from hip or knee replacement surgery or overcoming a serious illness or injury, physical therapy can help relieve discomfort and speed up recovery.

Physical therapists can teach you methods of easing pain and discomfort, minimizing the need for prescription medications. Heavy pain medication use can come with unwanted side effects, such as stomach ulcers, drowsiness, and gastrointestinal issues.

After an injury or surgery, PT techniques can help reduce swelling and inflammation. Staying active can also reduce stiffness and lower the risk of infections and skin problems such as ulcers due to lack of movement.

Physical therapy exercises can also boost the immune system, speeding up recovery after a serious illness.

Manages Symptoms of Chronic Conditions

As well as aiding recovery from injuries and illnesses, physical therapy can relieve the symptoms of chronic and age-related conditions.

Chronic conditions can occur at any age, but seniors are considerably more prone to many conditions and diseases, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and Parkinson’s disease.

Physical therapy can help ease the often debilitating symptoms of these conditions through pain relief treatments, muscle and bone strengthening exercises, and movement techniques.

Physical therapy relieves the symptoms of these conditions through:

  • Osteoporosis. Lessens bone loss and increases bone and muscle strength. 
  • Arthritis. Improves range of motion and strengthens muscles that support joints.
  • Fibromyalgia. Strengthens muscles and reduces inflammation to ease pain.
  • Parkinson’s Disease. Helps control tremors and increases mobility.
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Reduces inflammation and strengthens muscles to improve grip strength.
  • Multiple Sclerosis. Helps maintain balance and stability to improve coordination.
  • Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (incontinence). Strengthens the pelvic floor muscles.
  • Vertigo. Teaches balance and stabilization techniques.
  • Diabetes. Controls weight and lowers blood pressure through regular movement.
  • COPD. Increases aerobic capacity through regular exercise.

Improved Mental and Emotional Health

Physical therapy can also contribute to greater mental and emotional health in seniors. 

Regular physical activity increases serotonin levels in the brain and boosts the body’s endorphin levels, which improves mood and decreases the risk of mental health issues like depression.

Increased mobility and reduced discomfort also allows seniors to engage in meaningful activities they previously struggled with. These activities may include playing with grandchildren or meeting up with friends.

And for those who are homebound or socially isolated due to physical restrictions, physical therapy can offer one-on-one interaction, social support, and a sense of routine.

Seeking a Physical Therapy Provider 

If you think physical therapy could be the right route for you or your loved one, the next step is looking for a provider.

Things to consider when seeking a physical therapy provider:

  • Review Your Insurance. Medicare and other insurance providers often cover physical therapy as part of a home health plan ordered by a physician. Check your insurance and talk to your family physician about what may be covered.
  • Senior Care Focus. Many health providers offer physical therapy, but not all are specialized in senior care. By choosing a dedicated senior healthcare provider, you know that the therapists are specially trained in working with older adults and dealing with age-related conditions.
  • Physical Assessment. Before committing to a provider, set up a physical appointment for the therapist to assess you or your loved one’s needs. This test will make designing a therapy plan much easier. It will also allow you to meet the therapist in advance and see if they’re a good fit.
  • Review the Therapy Plan. Once the assessment is complete, you can work with the provider to create a therapy plan. This process ensures that physical therapy falls within your wider healthcare plan and is working to meet your end goals.
  • Consider Cost and Time. If insurance doesn’t cover the care, what is your available budget for physical therapy? How often would you like or need it? How will it fit into your current schedule?

Regain Your Independence with Providence Home Care

At Providence, we offer physical therapy for seniors as a part of our home health care service

We’re a specialized home care agency operating in the Oklahoma City area. Our core values include treating every person with dignity, respect, and compassion, operating with integrity, and always exceeding our client’s expectations.

Through individualized physical therapy plans, our trained healthcare professionals can help you or your elderly loved one live a more comfortable, pain-free, and active life. We aim for you to live independently and increase your overall quality of life.
Contact us today to learn more about our physical therapy services at Providence.

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