Physical therapists can keep you moving forward
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.