Physical therapy, by definition, is the treatment of a disease, deformity, or injury by physical exercise rather than the use of drugs or surgery. Physical therapy can help enhance a person’s mobility and body thus improving their health altogether. It is incredibly useful for those who suffer from arthritis, muscle strain, back pain, tendon or ligament issues, or want to promote post operative healing. Ways physical therapy can improve one’s ability to live a healthy lifestyle is by reducing or eliminating their pain, recovering from certain injuries faster due to past strengthening of muscles, and improving one’s mood. Physical therapy reduces or eliminates a person’s pain by a physical therapist teaching their patient proper exercises to increase their mobility and improve their overall lifestyle. PTs can achieve this by identifying which part of the body seems to be the weakest or most stiff and create treatments to reduce or eliminate that pain. Treatments can include aerobic exercise like cycling, jogging, swimming and strengthening exercises like squats, push ups, and lunges. Cycling improves your joint mobility and cardiovascular fitness, jogging strengthens your bones, and swimming reduces stress levels and improves your mood.
Squatting helps build your leg muscles, push ups can help create stability and balance, and lunges can effectively work your leg and glute muscles which can strengthen them and can increase hip flexibility. These all have been shown to have a very positive effect on the human body both physically and mentally. Another way physical therapy can help a person live a healthy lifestyle is by strengthening one’s muscles so that they can recover from injuries faster. Let’s say that you’re an adolescent athlete, for example, a baseball player in high school. Baseball is known for its repetitive throwing movements and if you’re an adolescent, you’re in the time period of your life where your bones are rapidly growing and those constant, repetitive movements can lead to painful injuries.
According to an article written by Ellen Shanley, PhD, and Chuck Thigpen, PhD, in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, “The combination of repetitive throwing, weak physeal cartilage at growth centers, muscle tightness associated with rapid long bone growth, increased laxity of soft tissue structures, and decreased development of neuromuscular movement patterns may place the adolescent athlete at increased risk of upper extremity injury.”(1) With the help of a physical therapist who can identify the weak spots of the arms and shoulders in an adolescent baseball player, with proper exercises and movements to strengthen these areas like for example, your elbows, you’ll be getting fewer injuries or at least recovering a lot quicker from those injuries. Then, soon enough, you can be back out on the field playing with the rest of the team. The last way physical therapy can make a difference in someone’s ability to live a healthy lifestyle is that their mood can drastically improve. With the exercises your physical therapist recommends you to do, studies have shown that exercise can drastically improve how you feel overall.
According to James Blumenthal, PhD, “There’s good epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people. And people who were active and stopped tend to be more depressed than those who maintain or initiate an exercise program.”2) Blumenthal conducted an experiment to explore the connection exercise had to one’s mood. Through a series of randomized trials, he took sedentary adults and separated them into four groups: one group that will do supervised exercise, one that will do home based exercise, one that will take antidepressant therapy, and one that will receive a placebo pill. After following up with the patients after one year, the active subjects reported having lower depression at the one-year follow up than the less active groups did. This shows that while the exercises can make you stronger and healthier physically, it can also help you feel better also. The exercises seemed to have served as a form of physical therapy to those with major depressive disorder, making them feel better than they did before the exercise. Physical therapy can help tremendously if we abide by the doctor’s orders and our exercise regimen. It can help us physically by strengthening our bones and muscles, eliminate or reduce any pain, and improve our mood for the better. Physical therapy can be one of the great ways to live a healthier lifestyle, especially if you’re one who doesn’t like the idea of going under the knife or being on so many prescription medications. With more people opening their eyes to the benefits of physical therapy, there would be more people exercising and, as a bonus, possibly a lower number of surgery bills in the future.