Physical therapy can be important for helping older adults with chronic and complex conditions maintain and retain their general health, mobility, and independence. With aging, older adults begin to lose flexibility, some bone strength and often their balance. Loss of these physical functions along with any mental health declines can lead to a fall that could cause serious injury. Falls are the major reason seniors require physical therapy. Most patients, aged 65 and over experience some arthritis in their spine, even if they don’t have the symptoms. Physical therapy can help offset arthritis related symptoms through the use of aquatic exercises, hot packs, massages and other techniques.
The goal of physical therapy is to help restore and improve functionality, reduce pain and increase mobility for better strength and balance. Physical therapy can prove important post recovery for stroke patients needing to strengthen muscles or mental capacity through motor imagery and memory practice that stimulates areas of the brain that controls movement. Research has found that intensified rehabilitation therapy may decrease transitions to skilled nursing facilities (SNF) in community-living seniors with acute medical illness. Older patients experiencing incontinence can be taught pelvic exercises that strengthen muscles to better control the bladder, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients can learn valuable breathing techniques that can improve shortness of breath with physical therapy.