Phys­i­cal ther­a­pists can keep you mov­ing for­ward

Westside Eagle-Observer - - OPINION - Siloam Spring Re­gional Hos­pi­tal

This Oc­to­ber, we cel­e­brate Na­tional Phys­i­cal Ther­apy Month in the shadow of an alarm­ing and grow­ing opi­oid cri­sis. The ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans who die from opi­oid over­doses do so af­ter us­ing th­ese med­i­ca­tions to treat le­git­i­mate pain. Sadly, many of th­ese con­di­tions could be pre­vented or man­aged with pos­i­tive life­style changes and a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of body me­chan­ics learned through phys­i­cal ther­apy.

When pre­sented with the con­cept of phys­i­cal ther­apy, most peo­ple think of phys­i­cal ther­a­pist’s role in re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion af­ter surgery or a stroke event. But phys­i­cal ther­apy ul­ti­mately fo­cuses on the body’s abil­ity to en­gage in move­ment – whether that means get­ting in and out of chairs, climb­ing stairs, walk­ing in your neigh­bor­hood or play­ing a com­pet­i­tive sport.

Phys­i­cal ther­a­pists are move­ment spe­cial­ists. They are li­censed pro­fes­sion­als with grad­u­atelevel de­grees who have ad­vanced clin­i­cal knowl­edge of the hu­man mus­cu­lar and skele­tal sys­tems. Over the past decade, phys­i­cal ther­apy has in­creas­ingly fo­cused on pre­ven­tion rather than treat­ment. Phys­i­cal ther­apy tech­niques can help those with arthri­tis, sports in­juries, en­vi­ron­men­tal or work­place pain, and sleep dis­tur­bances, pro­vid­ing a num­ber of ben­e­fits.

■ Avoid­ing surgery — Those with menis­cal or ro­ta­tor cuff tears, spinal steno­sis and de­gen­er­a­tive disk dis­ease of­ten ex­pe­ri­ence sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment through phys­i­cal ther­apy. Given the cost and re­cov­ery time in­volved with sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures, it’s worth a try.

■ Avoid­ing opi­oids — Chronic joint and nerve pain are the most com­mon rea­sons peo­ple seek over-the-counter and pre­scrip­tion pain med­i­ca­tions. Ex­haust­ing all pos­si­ble ther­apy and body-man­age­ment tac­tics for pain re­duc­tion should al­ways be a pri­or­ity be­fore opt­ing for opi­oids.

■ Man­ag­ing the work en­vi­ron­ment — A phys­i­cal ther­a­pist can pro­vide you with tools and ex­er­cises to pre­vent pain and loss of mo­bil­ity, whether you sit for a liv­ing, stand in one place, use your hands repet­i­tively, or lift heavy ob­jects all day. Rec­og­niz­ing the risks in­volved in your daily work life and be­ing proac­tive about them can save pain, costs and lost pro­duc­tiv­ity.

■ Pre­vent­ing headaches — Many chronic headache con­di­tions are caused by in­creased time in front of com­put­ers and mo­bile de­vices. Pres­sure on the tho­racic and cer­vi­cal spine can lead to disc de­gen­er­a­tion and nerve dam­age and re­sult in fierce and fre­quent headaches. Learn­ing to use and po­si­tion your body can lead to a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in pain.

Arthri­tis is a fact of life for most peo­ple, though the ex­tent and na­ture of its im­pact on our lives can vary widely. We all know peo­ple who still look spry

and con­fi­dent at age 82. It’s un­likely that they have no arthri­tis – the dif­fer­ence lies in how they “man­age” their bod­ies. Phys­i­cal ther­a­pists pro­vide ben­e­fits for arthri­tis pa­tients in three dif­fer­ent ar­eas:

1. Pre­vent and man­age chronic pain – A phys­i­cal ther­a­pist will help strengthen the as­so­ci­ated mus­cle groups and teach you to move your body prop­erly while de­creas­ing im­pact on the af­fected joint.

2. Cre­ate and main­tain max­i­mum flex­i­bil­ity and mo­bil­ity – Phys­i­cal ther­apy is a holis­tic prac­tice of medicine, and good ther­a­pists fac­tor in your so­cial, emo­tional and phys­i­cal fac­tors when cre­at­ing a treat­ment plan.

3. Sup­port good sleep – Much of the phys­i­cal de­cline as­so­ci­ated with arthri­tis can be at­trib­uted to poor sleep me­chan­ics. A ther­a­pist will help with tips and tools for proper sleep health.

Phys­i­cal ther­apy ben­e­fits those with and with­out ex­ist­ing phys­i­cal ail­ments. When you meet with a phys­i­cal ther­a­pist, give him or her an ac­cu­rate pic­ture of your cur­rent life­style and paint a pic­ture of what you’d like to ac­com­plish. The ben­e­fits won’t be re­al­ized overnight, but much of what you learn you can con­tinue your­self at home.

The way we hold, op­er­ate and rest our bod­ies is closely tied to lev­els of hap­pi­ness, dis­ease pre­ven­tion, and longevity, and the prac­tice of it is not to be un­der­es­ti­mated.

Siloam Springs Re­gional Hos­pi­tal Ther­apy of­fers a range of out­pa­tient and in­pa­tient ther­apy ser­vices, in­clud­ing phys­i­cal ther­apy, oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy and speech ther­apy. It as­sists a va­ri­ety of pa­tients with vast func­tional dif­fer­ences. The whole-pa­tient ap­proach to ther­apy helps pa­tients get back to their nor­mal, ev­ery­day ac­tiv­i­ties. For more in­for­ma­tion, call 479-215-3021.

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