This article was originally shared via Silver Sneakers.
5 Surprising Reasons to See a Physical Therapist
Think PT is just for rehab after an accident or injury? It’s time to discover the many ways these body experts can come to your rescue.
Physical therapy can help with everything from balance issues to strength, mobility, and overall fitness—all crucial factors as we age. Yet plenty of people who stand to benefit fail to take advantage.
“I think we have a bit of a PR problem,” says Mary Morrison, P.T., a physical therapist specializing in geriatrics at the Cleveland Clinic.
For instance, many people think you have to be in pain before you visit a therapist. In fact, physical therapy (PT) can help prevent falls, injury, and even chronic disease. For those who already have a chronic disease, it can help slow the progression.
Even people who do have pain may dismiss or minimize their discomfort rather than seek a PT’s guidance to fix it.
If any of the scenarios below sounds like you, an evaluation with a physical therapist might be in order.
Reason #1: Your Body Aches
Bad back? Sore shoulder? Bum knee? A physical therapist may be able to ease your pain.
“One of the myths of aging is that pain is normal,” says Alice Bell, P.T., a certified specialist in geriatric physical therapy and spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association.
The truth is musculoskeletal pain—the kind resulting from overuse, poor posture, or an injury to your muscles, joints, or tendons—can usually be reduced or eliminated by physical therapy.
These can include shoulder impingement, sprains, tendonitis, and back, hip, neck, or knee pain. By analyzing your movements, a physical therapist can identify the root cause of your pain, and recommend strengthening and flexibility exercises to help you heal.
If you have shoulder problems, for example, exercises that strengthen the rotator cuff and scapular muscles—like shoulder blade squeezes—can help pull your shoulder back into proper alignment.
A therapist can also teach you how to break up static patterns that lead to pain. One of Bell’s patients—a woman with neck and shoulder pain—was an avid knitter who would sit in the same position for hours working on a project. Bell taught her how to shift positions, hold her projects differently, and take breaks throughout the day.
If you have pain that does not improve in two weeks, consider seeking a physical therapist’s help, says Morrison. You may see improvement in as little as one to two sessions, adds Bell.
Reason #2: You’re Doing Less of the Things You Love
One in four Americans ages 65 and older take a tumble each year, making falls the leading cause of injury among this age group. But the worst part is that many are avoidable.