Physiotherapy in the Elderly

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BY LAILA SULTAN

Medicine can help to add days to life, whereas physical therapy can help to add life to days  

Orthopaedic Physiotherapy is probably what most people think of when they think of physiotherapy. They treat problems with the musculoskeletal system, most often after an injury or orthopaedic surgery. However, we have many other areas of physiotherapy that can help senior citizens when we talk about non-pharmacological interventions.

Cardiopulmonary Physiotherapy in the elderly - helps patients gain endurance in the face of cardiac (heart) or pulmonary (lung) illnesses or after surgery. Sometimes, especially for heart attack patients, the therapist will give advice on health and nutrition. Manual therapies help clear the lungs in patients with certain lung diseases.

Clinical Electrophysiotherapy in the elderly - here electrical stimulation and other tactics to promote healing in stubborn wounds such as burns, sores on diabetics, or post-amputation wounds are used.

Geriatric Physiotherapists - are prepared to deal with the special needs of the elderly and help them continue to maintain as active a lifestyle as possible.

Neurological Physiotherapy in senior citizens- patients that could have any one of many neurological illnesses or injuries are treated by neurological physiotherapy. This includes Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, or injury to the brain or spinal cord.

Elderly women’s Health Physiotherapists - specialize in women’s health. This speciality helps women recover from such issues as incontinence, pelvic pain,

Why Physiotherapy is important in elderly?

A physiotherapy program can help senior citizens return close to their prior level of functioning, and encourage activities and lifestyle changes that can help prevent further injury and improve overall health and well-being.

Physiotherapy can help by following ways in the senior citizens.

Reduce or eliminate pain: Therapeutic exercises and manual therapy techniques such as joint and soft tissue mobilization or treatments such as ultrasound, taping or electrical stimulation can help relieve pain and restore muscle and joint function to reduce pain. Such therapies can also prevent pain from returning.

Avoid surgery: If physical therapy helps you eliminate pain or heal from an injury, surgery may not be needed. And even if surgery is required, you may benefit from pre-surgery physical therapy. If you are going into surgery stronger and in better shape, you will recover faster afterwards in many cases. 

Improve mobility: If you’re having trouble standing, walking or moving—no matter your age—physical therapy can help. Stretching and strengthening exercises help restore your ability to move. Physical therapists can properly fit individuals with a cane, crutches or any other assistive device, or assess for orthotic prescription.

Recover from a stroke: It’s common to lose some degree of function and movement after a stroke. Physical therapy helps strengthen weakened parts of the body and improve gait and balance. Physical therapists can also improve stroke patients’ ability to transfer and move around in bed so that they can be more independent around the home, and reduce their burden of care for toileting, bathing, dressing and other activities of daily living.

Recover from or prevent an injury: Physiotherapists can design appropriate recovery or prevention exercise programs for your overall well-being.

Improve your balance and prevent falls: If you’re at high risk for falls, therapists will provide exercises that safely and carefully challenge your balance as a way to mimic real-life situations. Therapists also help you with exercises to improve coordination and assistive devices to help with safer walking. When the balance problem is caused by a problem in one’s vestibular system, Physiotherapists can perform specific manoeuvres that can quickly restore proper vestibular functioning, and reduce and eliminate symptoms of dizziness or vertigo.

Manage diabetes and vascular conditions: As part of an overall diabetes management plan, exercise can help effectively control blood sugar.  Additionally, people with diabetes may have problems with sensation in their feet and legs. Physical therapists can help provide and educate these patients on proper foot care to prevent further problems down the road.

Manage other age-related issues: Aged people may develop arthritis or osteoporosis or need a joint replacement. Physiotherapists are experts in helping patients recover from joint replacement, and manage arthritic or osteoporotic conditions conservatively.

Manage heart and lung disease: While patients may complete cardiac rehabilitation after a heart attack or procedure, they also may receive physical therapy if their daily functioning is affected. For pulmonary problems, physical therapy can improve quality of life through strengthening, conditioning and breathing exercises, and help patients clear fluid in the lungs.

Laila Sultana is an MPT Neurology and Geriatric Physiotherapist working with DHSK.

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