For many, physical therapy can be a way to regain independence and accelerate the recovery process. Although a wide range of age groups can benefit, senior physical therapy can provide older adults with numerous positive health effects.
Over time, our bodies tend to lose flexibility, strength, and balance. For those who keep up a regular exercise regimen, these things may not be out of reach, yet not everyone is as fortunate. Loss of these functions can precipitate a fall, one of the most common and serious injuries for seniors.
According to the CDC, more than 300,000 seniors are hospitalized in the United States due to hip fractures each year, 95% of which are caused by falling. Generally, an aging adult won’t fare as well as more elastic individuals when it comes to hospital stays. The best way to avoid these injuries in the first place is through nutrient-rich diets, safety precautions, and you guessed it – physical therapy!
Still, these injuries do happen and it’s important to realize how senior physical therapy can help the recovery process to avoid readmissions and further health risks.
Senior Physical Therapy Options:
Considering that senior physical therapy can treat a wide range of illnesses and conditions, the techniques used are numerous. On a very basic level, the most commonly utilized forms of therapy include:
Massage: Used to relax the body’s soft tissues, improving circulation and relieving pain.
Mobilization: Employs slow, range of movement activities to pull joints and bones into place and increase flexibility.
Balance: Uses low impact movements and stretching to build muscle groups associated with increased balance.
Although falls and other mobility-related injuries can be lessened by regular exercise and physical therapy, it’s important to understand which exercises are appropriate for each age group to do more good than harm. Some activities specifically beneficial to seniors can include:
• Balancing on one foot
• Walking heel to toe
• Hi-knee walking
• Leg raises
• Tai Chi
For seniors, be sure to provide support like railings, a chair, or other equipment!
Physical Therapy: Not an Afterthought!
Because falls and other injuries do happen, encouraging patients to take the necessary path to recovery shouldn’t be a passing consideration. After leaving the hospital, most older adults will experience that their strength has diminished, if only slightly. Though physical therapy may seem like another medical hang-up to them, it is essential to one’s wellbeing overall.
A recent hospital stay leaves the immune system vulnerable to increased risk of infection due to a lack of physical movement. Even once they return home on bed-rest, moving and keeping active can serve to avoid further complications such as skin problems and even bedsores.
When working with seniors, it can be helpful to understand that they may be hesitant to address their physique. A recent hospitalization can be very difficult to deal with, especially following a great deal of pain. For these reasons, senior physical therapy can demand a lot of patience and dedication.
For aging adults, physical therapy can provide a means of regaining independence and living a safe life overall. Even if someone hasn’t recently sustained an injury, their activities of daily life won’t be as difficult.
With seniors, your job as a physical therapist can be as much about providing your services as it is to support them in old age. Though the focus might be building physical skills, emotional support for an older adult is sometimes just as important! As always, keep safety first and work within someone’s ability. Senior physical therapy is only going to be in higher demand as we all reach those golden years!