October is National Physical Therapy Month

Shot of a senior woman using weights with the help of a physical therapist

Physical therapy – along with other therapeutic modalities such as occupational and speech therapy – is a service more skilled nursing facilities are offering. Here are some of the most common procedures that require physical therapy:

Knee replacement

More than 600,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the United States, making it one of the most common joint replacement surgeries. The most typical candidate for knee replacement is someone suffering from osteoarthritis. It is also one of the most successful surgical procedures, with almost 90 percent of patients reporting a dramatic reduction of pain. This also makes knee replacement one of the most life-enhancing procedures you can have. It may take as long as 12 weeks to recover to the point where you can return to normal activities. During this time, the physical therapy you receive is essential to helping ensure a full recovery. Rehabilitation begins almost immediately after your surgery. Within the first 24 hours, you may begin standing and walking using an assistive device. Your hospital stay will probably last only a few days, after which you’ll most likely go to a skilled nursing facility. More facilities also offer outpatient physical therapy, or services provided in a patient’s home.

Hip fracture

Every year, more than 250,000 people experience a hip fracture, the majority being people 65 and over. Hip fractures reduce independence and may even shorten one’s life. Fractures require surgery, with most patients typically remaining in the hospital from three to five days. After surgery, physical therapy is critical to a positive outcome and will include strength and balance exercises. Thomas Storer, a lecturer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, notes that people appear to do better in a professional rehab setting than do-it-yourself rehab at home. The good news is, there are several things you can do to prevent a hip fracture in the first place – exercise, which can strengthen legs and improve balance; checking your medications, many of which can cause drowsiness or dizziness, which can increase your chance of falling; and talking to your doctor for advice on reducing your fall risk.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 800,000 people have a stroke each year. The good news is that there are several things you can do to prevent strokes. According to the National Stroke Association, up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable. Ways you can lower your risk include getting more exercise, losing weight, and get treated for diseases that increase your risk including diabetes and atrial fibrillation. If you do have a stroke, physical therapy can help tremendously. Rehabilitation will help you relearn the skills you may have lost as a result of the stroke and may include regaining motor skills and mobility through muscle strengthening, balance and coordination exercises. Most people who have suffered a stroke are able to see at least some level of improvement through therapy. Many continue to improve over a long period of time and others are able to recover fully.

Heart attack

Cardiovascular diseases remain the leading cause of death in the world. More than 900,000 Americans have a heart attack each year. You can reduce your risk through proper exercise and nutrition and reducing your stress level. If you do have a heart attack or suffer from heart disease, cardiac rehabilitation may be able to help. According to the American Heart Association, cardiac rehabilitation can reduce mortality rates by 20 to 30 percent and reduce symptoms, including angina, dyspnea and fatigue, as well as improving health factors like blood pressure and lipids and overall health and well-being. Experts say cardiac rehab is alarmingly underutilized in this country, with only 14 to 35 percent of eligible heart attack survivors and 31 percent of coronary bypass surgery patients participating in cardiac rehabilitation, which is often a benefit offered by insurance plans and Medicare.

Source: Real Properties in association with IlluminAge Communication Partners; copyright 2017 IlluminAge.