October is National Physical Therapy Month


National Physical Therapy Month is a great opportunity to honor physical therapists, who do so much to help patients recover from surgery, injury or illness, improve their mobility, decrease their pain, avoid fall injuries, and live a healthier lifestyle.

Physical therapist helps senior woman with weights

This year, physical therapy is more important than ever! Doctors report that many COVID-19 patients are experiencing long-term challenges. Those living with "long COVID" continue to deal with the effect of the disease on their muscles, nerves and cognitive processes. Many patients were affected not only by the virus, but by prolonged immobility while they were hospitalized and recovering.

Even older adults who escaped infection or serious illness also could benefit from physical therapy, say gerontologists. During the pandemic, seniors have been the most cautious of any age group, most abiding by quarantine orders to avoid contracting the virus, whether that was in their own home or in a senior living community. It was harder to get enough exercise, and they quickly learned that slowing down isn't good for our bodies! Many health care providers are recommending physical therapy to help older patients rebuild their strength, flexibility and stamina.

Experts also remind us that physical therapists have effective infection-control protocols in place, so if your doctor has recommended physical therapy, it's time to get back to it!

Physical therapy is most often recommended for:

Knee replacement. Almost 700,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the United States. The most typical candidate for knee replacement is someone suffering from osteoarthritis. Knee replacement is one of the most successful surgical procedures, with almost 90% of patients reporting a dramatic reduction of pain, making it one of the most life-enhancing procedures a patient can have. It may take several months for patients to regain their ability to return to normal activities. During this time, physical therapy is essential to helping ensure a full recovery. Rehabilitation begins almost immediately after surgery. Within the first 24 hours, patients may begin standing and walking using an assistive device. After a few days in the hospital, patients begin physical therapy, often in a skilled nursing or rehabilitation facility.

Hip surgery. Each year, more than 300,000 people in the U.S. experience a hip fracture. Hip fractures reduce independence and can shorten life. Fractures require internal repair or a hip replacement, with most patients typically remaining in the hospital from three to five day. People may also opt for a hip replacement due to arthritis or others causes. 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 rehabilitation setting than with do-it-yourself rehab at home. Physical therapy can also help patients prevent a first or subsequent hip fracture.

Stroke. Almost 800,000 people in the U.S. suffer a stroke each year. Rehabilitation, including physical therapy, can help tremendously during recovery. Physical therapists, along with occupational and speech-language therapists, help patients relearn skills they may have lost as a result of the stroke. Patients improve motor skills and mobility through muscle strengthening, balance and coordination exercises. Most stroke survivors experience 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. Physical therapy also helps patients avoid having another stroke.

Heart disease. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in the world. Each year, more than 900,000 people in the U.S. suffer a heart attack, and 655,000 people die from heart diseases. Cardiac rehabilitation helps patients who are living with heart disease, have had a heart attack, or are recovering from heart surgery. According to the American Heart Association, cardiac rehabilitation can reduce mortality rates by up to 30% and reduce symptoms, including angina, breathing problems and fatigue, as well as improving health factors such as blood pressure and lipids. This benefit is often covered by insurance plans and Medicare.

Source: IlluminAge