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For seniors recovering from injury or illness and for those experiencing chronic pain, physical therapy can help relieve pain and restore physical functions such as flexibility, strength, balance and coordination.
Elderly physical therapy combines a combination of approaches including stretching, walking, massage, hydrotherapy, and electrical stimulation among others.
The goal of physical therapy for seniors is to make daily tasks and activities easier. And to make seniors as independent as possible.
Among the circumstances where physical therapy can be valuable are for those:
Physical Therapists (PTs) diagnose and treat everyone from newborns to seniors who have medical problems or health-related issues. PTs develop a plan using a variety of treatment techniques to increase a person's movement, reduce pain, and restore function.
The first goal is to reduce pain and swelling if there is any. Then, a PT will apply various techniques to increase flexibility, strength, coordination and balance. These techniques usually involve exercise such as stretching, lifting weights and walking. For more senior exercise ideas, see Active Senior Living.
PTs can also combine an assortment of other therapies, some that may help, and others that may not. It's often a trial and error process.
Manual Therapy is therapy performed by the hands of the therapist with the goal of relaxing the patient, reducing pain, and providing more flexibility. It includes:
Cold Therapy is used to relieve pain, swelling and inflammation from conditions such as arthritis. Treatment involves ice packs (15 to 20 minute sessions), ice massage, and rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE).
Heat Therapy relaxes muscles and improves blood circulation, which is useful for loosening stiff joints from osteoarthritis or other conditions where you've been immobilized. Heat is also used to loosen muscles before exercise.
Hydrotherapy uses water to treat diseases and to maintain health, healing soft tissues, increasing blood flow, and relaxing the entire body.
Electrical stimulation uses electrical current to create a desired effect in the body. For instance, electrical current can scramble pain signals to cover feelings of pain. Electrical stimulation is used to contract muscles in stroke victims and those with arthritis.
Electrical stimulation is the general term that describes the use of electrical current to create an effect in the body. There are several uses for electrical stimulation. Electrical stimulation therapy is often used in conjuction with cold laser therapy to provide better healing.
Physical Therapists educate patients in every session. Patients are taught how to perform daily tasks, protect their body from re-injury, perform exercises at home, and how to make their homes a safer place.
Ultrasound uses high-pitched sound waves to reduce muscle spasms and relax the muscles before and after exercise.
The medical community is finding that physical therapy can be used to help patients with a variety of diseases and medical conditions—some obvious, some less so.
Most people 65 and over have some arthritis in their spine, even if they don't have the symptoms. Physical therapy can help offset future symptoms by using aquatic exercises, hot packs, electrical stimulation and other techniques.
As you can see, physical therapy can help seniors in about every area of health care imaginable. If you're recovering from surgery or an illness or living with a disease, ask your doctor about physical therapy. PT can give you back your independence by increasing your mobility and making daily tasks easier.
To find out ways to stay even more mobile, read Assistive Technology Devices.
Physical Therapists can be given to seniors in a wide variety of living situations including:
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