By Dr. Chris Mulvey, PT
The benefits of physical therapy on your body are obvious.
Exercises prescribed by a skilled physical therapist can reduce, or even eliminate, chronic pain, as well as help athletes recover from injuries. They can help joints, muscles and soft tissues get back in working order. They can improve mobility and balance, skills especially important for our senior population.
However, many people are unaware of the potential impact that physical therapy can have on the human brain. Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, circulating oxygen and vital nutrients that help the brain function at peak levels.
Study after study proves individuals perform better on memory-related tasks after completing moderate exercise. That’s why you see so many professionals hit the gym before heading to work each morning – it helps them think clearly at the office.
Much like seeing a physical therapist for physical rehabilitation, experienced physical therapists also offer neurological rehabilitation.
Physical therapists can prescribe a range of physical and mental exercise to treat patients with a variety of brain-related conditions, including nerve and pain disorders, peripheral neuropathy, gait and balance disorders, strokes, sciatica and radiculopathies, traumatic brain injuries, headaches, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease and concussions.
One of the most exciting developments is medical research proving exercise and its increased blood flow can slow down, or even reverse, memory loss. It’s estimated that 40% of seniors experience some type of age-related memory loss, so the possibility that incorporating a little movement into daily routines is quite encouraging.
Under the supervision of a physical therapist, patients can undergo a neurological re-education, essentially retraining the brain and body to work together. This is crucial for individuals who have experienced a stroke or traumatic brain injury that restricts mobility and function. A “retraining” program can help patients get back to everyday activities like eating, dressing, bathing, cooking and basic housekeeping, as well as walking, climbing stairs and other motion-based activities that require strength, balance and endurance.
Rather than taking over-the-counter medications to treat frequent headaches and motion sickness, patients should consider having their vestibular system recalibrated by a physical therapist. This offers a solution instead of just masking an equilibrium problem with medication.
No patient can just snap their fingers or schedule one physical therapy appointment before returning to their prior state. That’s why it is important to set short-term and long-term goals for any type of rehabilitation.
As always, consult with a trained medical professional prior to making any substantial exercise, dietary or lifestyle changes.
About the Author
Dr. Chris Mulvey, PT, is president for company-owned operations at FYZICAL Therapy and Balance Centers, which has 427 locations in 45 states. For more information, please visit Fyzical.com.