As a physical therapist, I get questions all the time like, “Don’t you just help people after surgery?” (The answer is no!) Sure physical therapists can help with many orthopedic conditions such as acute pain, tissue injury and recovery from surgery, but there are some other, less well-known, things that physical therapists are GREAT at treating.
Here is a list of the top 3 problems you might not have known physical therapists can solve:
It has been estimated that 65% of people older than 60 experience dizziness or loss of balance, often on a daily basis.1This can greatly affect someone’s daily life and can make doing your hobbies difficult, if not impossible. Dizziness can be a multi-factorial condition requiring the attention of a professional who understands what questions to ask and tests to perform. Physical therapists are trained in evaluating your dizziness and helping to identify the potential cause! Whether you’ve been experiencing dizziness for just a few days or maybe years, a physical therapist can be your first stop towards feeling better! Here are two very common forms of dizziness in older adults:
A.) Benign Positional Paroxysmal Vertigo (BPPV for short)-Little known fact: a lot of our balance comes from systems in our inner ear that give our brain information about where we are in space. BPPV occurs when small crystals that are part of your inner ear become dislodged and migrate into one or more of three fluid filled semi-circular canals. Because this is not where they belong, it can disrupt the inner ear signals to the brain.2This condition is called BPPV because:
It is Benign meaning it is not life-threatening
It is Paroxysmal because it occurs suddenly and in brief episodes
It is Positional because it gets triggered with certain head movements or head positions (think rolling in bed)
It causes Vertigo which is a false sense of rotational movement (meaning you might feel like the room is spinning!)
The only awesome part of BPPV is that it is VERY treatable, specifically by a physical therapist! There is a specific repositioning maneuver that can be performed in the physical therapist’s clinic and usually within 1-2 treatments, people feel better!
B.) Orthostatic Hypotension- this is defined as a decrease in systolic blood pressure (top number on the reading of your blood pressure) of 20 mm Hg or a decrease in diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) of 10 mm Hg within three minutes of standing when compared with blood pressure from the sitting or lying down position.3As you can imagine, a change in blood pressure this dramatic often causes dizziness or a feeling of light headedness. Orthostatic hypotension can occur for various reasons including dehydration, medication side effects, cardiac conditions and neurologic conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease.
Watch this amazing educational video by one of re+active co-owners, Dr. Erin Caudill PT, DPT, NCS as she breaks down all you need to know about low blood pressure and orthostatic hypotension! She even gives you simple ways to improve your orthostatic hypotension and reduce your risk of falling.
2. Chronic Pain
We all get referred to physical therapists after surgery, but how can PT’s help with chronic pain?
Pain is the body’s natural response to danger; think of pain as your brain’s alarm system. When you stub your toe, the nerves in your toe send signals to the brain that say, “Hey, your right toe is in danger right now!” With normal tissue healing, most acute (or short term) pain reduces along with healing of the injured tissue. However, pain that lasts longer than 6 months is considered “chronic” in nature. This essentially means it is more complex. It usually means that the original tissue injury has healed, but that “danger” signal continues to be sent to the brain. It’s kind of like a fire alarm in your house that goes off when your cat walks by! It is hypersensitive and triggered easily by non-threatening stimuli.
Many of us are aware that the United States is in an opioid medication crisis. It is estimated that 100 MILLION people in the U.S. suffer from chronic pain, which is more than the number of people who suffer from Diabetes and Cancer.4If you or a loved one is experiencing chronic pain it can be difficult to know what resources are available. The good news is that physical therapist can help! Many physical therapists have taken extensive pain science courses and are well-versed in the latest scientific literature surrounding the treatment of people who suffer from chronic pain. Physical therapists can help you understandyour pain, which has been shown to be one of the best ways for people with chronic pain to experience less pain over time. Exercise has also been shown to boost the brain’s natural pain medication (endorphins!). A great PT can help you find the activities that allow you to experience less pain and over time will encourage you to get back to your daily activities. Just be sure to ask your physical therapist on day one if they have worked with people with chronic pain, because finding the right fit for you is important!
Here are some of my favorite pain education videos:
3. Prevention of Injury, falls and disease progression!
This one is my personal favorite! So many people think physical therapists only help once an injury or diagnosis has occurred, but we are movement specialists who can help you prevent injuriesbeforethey happen! I love working with a new client whose primary goal is to get on an exercise program that prevents functional decline and falls!
Whether you’re a weekend warrior trying to prevent another ankle sprain, or an 83-year-old grandmother wanting to stay active with your grandchildren, physical therapists know how to analyze your movement patterns in order to identify any areas of concern that might place you at risk for injury and falls. One of our favorite things to do as physical therapists is to IMPROVE the way you move! Just because you had an ACL tear at age 16 doesn’t mean you can’t move optimally all the way into your 90’s. Many PT clinics also have wellness services such as exercise classes that can help you maintain a high quality of physical functioning throughout your life time! Click here to check out re+active’s exercise class schedule.
Additionally, physical therapists are trained in how to help you modify your lifestyle to assist in preventing and reducing many chronic diseases. Many chronic conditions including Diabetes have modifiable risk factors that your physical therapist can help you adjust in order to increase your quality of life, longevity and health! We love being your lifelong guide in physical fitness and healthy living. Additionally, neurologic physical therapists (like us re+active), use targeted exercise to slow disease progression in progressive neurologic disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease! Here at re+active we have a community Facebook group that we fill with wellness and health-related information, dialogue and support! If you’re interested in joining our re+active community group page click here.
So there you have it! I hope this blog has been eye opening to just a few of the less well known ways in which physical therapists can help you! If you’re looking to find a physical therapist that is right for you, start here with our free guide about the top 9 questions to ask your therapist.
Want more information? Be sure to go to www.reactivept.comto join our email newsletter! You’ll receive email updates about health & wellness!
What Causes Dizziness/Vertigo. National Dizzy & Balance Center. Available at: http://www.nationaldizzyandbalancecenter.com/resources/what-causes-dizziness-vertigo/. Accessed 4/30/18.
BENIGN PAROXYSMAL POSITIONAL VERTIGO (BPPV). Vestibular.ORG. Available at: http://vestibular.org/understanding-vestibular-disorders/types-vestibular-disorders/benign-paroxysmal-positional-vertigo. Accessed: 4/30/18.
Lanier JB, Mote MB, Clay EC. Evaluation and Management of Orthostatic Hypotension. Am Fam Physician. 2011 Sep 1;84(5):527-536.https://www.aafp.org/afp/2011/0901/p527.html
AAPM Facts and Figures on Pain.The American Academy of Pain Medicine. Available at: http://www.painmed.org/patientcenter/facts_on_pain.aspx. Accessed 5/14/18.