January 9, 2023

How Physical Therapy Can Get Seniors Moving

With a new year comes new resolutions, and often those resolutions involve increasing physical activity, improving health, and doing more of the things we love. For seniors, a great way to pursue all of these things is to incorporate physical therapy into their routine.

Physical therapy allows individuals to understand and build on their existing strength. A physical therapist will build a customized plan that reflects each individual’s current abilities and goals. Participants who choose to invest time and energy into complying with their therapist’s plan will reap positive benefits across all areas of life.

“Physical therapy can play a significant role in helping seniors maintain their independence and quality of life,” explains Taylor Dittmann, a doctor of physical therapy with EmpowerMe Wellness. “This isn’t just about recovery. A good physical therapist understands an individual's hopes and plans, then builds an individualized and specialized therapy plan that reflects their goals and interests.”

Seniors have a lot to gain (and maintain) through physical therapy. Here are a few key outcomes seniors typically experience through physical therapy:

  • Increased muscle strength
  • Increased range of motion
  • Improved balance
  • Decreased fall risk
  • Improved mental health
  • Increased confidence

Ready to get moving? Here’s what to know about getting started with physical therapy…

How to Access Physical Therapy

Most times, physical therapy is prescribed by a physician due to deconditioning, injury, surgery, functional decline, etc. It is important to always know the importance of advocating for yourself and asking for a referral to physical therapy if you feel you would benefit. Ask your primary care physician to write an order.

Once you receive an order, you would select a provider (unless your insurance requires you to go to a specific location). The physical therapy provider will then complete an insurance verification and notify you of your coverage details. Once you provide consent, the physical therapist will complete an initial evaluation to develop a plan of care.

How Often You’ll Go

The frequency and duration of your therapy visits will be determined as part of the skilled assessment completed during the initial evaluation. On average in an outpatient setting, seniors tend to require between three to five sessions per week for approximately 60 minutes each. However, session lengths and frequencies may vary.

What Results to Expect

Results are dependent on each individual’s medical diagnoses, therapy diagnoses, comorbidities, precautions, and compliance with the plan of care. Some seniors will see results after just a few sessions, and others may take a little longer. If you are healing from an injury or surgery, it may sometimes take six to eight weeks, depending on the severity. Significant change in strength occurs over a 12-16-week period, which is why it is important to stick to it — both during your sessions and beyond!

What to Wear

Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing such as athletic wear and comfortable shoes. If physical therapy is happening post-surgery, the surgical site will need to be accessible. If this is a sensitive or private area, proper draping or a private room will be available.

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