How Physical Therapy Helps With Disease Management

Nov 22 | ,

Physical therapy focuses on rehabilitation, muscle strength, posture improvement, and overall well-being. While it’s often offered on its own as a path to helping patients regain mobility and improve function after injury, physical therapy can also be used in conjunction with other therapies and treatments to help patients cope with symptoms related to a wide range of diseases.

For example, research studies have proven that physical therapy is a highly effective treatment to help care for patients with a variety of conditions, including  diabetes and advanced pain syndromes.

You might be surprised to learn how physical therapy can help treat a number of other diseases and conditions.

Parkinson’s Disease

Exercise helps the brain function better and how we physically function, as a whole. This is why physical therapy can be incredibly effective in alleviating many of the frustrating and debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease by improving motor function and mobility.

The impact is significant:

  • Faster walking with bigger steps
  • Improved balance
  • Increased trunk rotation
  • Improvements in activities of daily living such as bed mobility

Physical therapy is so helpful for these patients, it has actually become a standardized treatment protocol for patients with Parkinson’s Disease and is customized to each patient, depending on their unique needs.

Multiple Sclerosis

The key to treating multiple sclerosis (MS) is to intervene as early as possible. With physical therapy, practitioners can help patients adjust to increased fatigue, balance issues, walking and coordination problems before they significantly impact the patient’s quality of life.

Specifically, physical therapy is beneficial to patients with MS to

  • Strengthen the arms, legs, and core to assist with walking, daily activities, and to limit the inevitable impact of fatigue.
  • Patients often perform endurance exercises on the treadmill, stationary bike, rowing machine, or elliptical trainer to help with breathing, mood, and fatigue.
  • Water therapy, Tai Chi, and yoga are also quite helpful for patients with MS to improve movement, balance, flexibility, mood, and even the ability to focus.
  • Occupational therapy works on the fine motor skills that are essential for daily activities.

Osteoarthritis

Believe it or not, one of the best treatments for osteoarthritis is exercise. Mostly because it creates a natural lubricant to help joints move more smoothly and efficiently.

Exercise also strengthens the muscles around the joints to support them and relieve them of extra work. With stronger muscles, patients experience more pain-free movement.

Another reason that exercise and physical therapy helps treat osteoarthritis is because of its impact on weight and fitness levels. Every pound adds an additional load to the joints. By reducing load, you make it easier for the joints to glide without pressure.

Lastly, physical therapy and exercise help improve range of motion when counteracts the stiffness that is the hallmark of osteoarthritis.

Pain Syndromes

As we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, physical therapy is extremely helpful in treating pain syndromes. This is of particular concern to physicians and therapists in light of the opioid epidemic. Instead of prescribing opioids to treat pain, physicians prescribe physical therapy, which can be even more effective without the negative side effects and risk of addiction.

In fact, the American Physical Therapy Association #ChoosePT campaign is designed to raise awareness about the risks of opioids and physical therapy as an alternative for long-term pain management.

COVID-19

With the COVID-19 pandemic, treatments for patients with long-term effects of the virus are critical for longevity and quality of life. These effects can include heart, muscle, and joint issues. The result – fatigue, weakness, difficulty breathing, less endurance, and impaired balance. Not to mention the sedentary lifestyles many people have adopted as a result of the pandemic and successive lockdowns.

Patients need to be evaluated, as they are for any other disease so that a treatment plan can be developed to improve strength and flexibility, and activity tolerance.

We evaluate patients using capacity testing to establish a baseline and musculoskeletal testing to examine the specific areas that must be addressed.

Physical therapy treatments that are particularly helpful for patients with long-haul COVID-19 include:

  • Manual therapy that improves expansion of the chest and abdominal cavity.
  • Stretching and breathing techniques
  • Tools and equipment to improve soft tissue mobility and reduce breathing restriction
  • Corrective exercises for the diaphragm and postural muscles to optimize breathing
  • Breathing techniques to help strengthen the chest muscles
  • Posture, balance, and gait training

Regardless of the disease or condition, physical therapy is extremely useful in helping to care for patients and further improve mobility and motor function. Ultimately, the goal of any physical therapy treatment plan is to help patients return to their prior levels of function and improve their quality of life by getting back to normal.

Find a physical therapy clinic near you