Physical Therapy Gives Patients With Chronic Diseases The Ability to Take Charge of Their Health
It’s no secret that participating in physical activity helps improve a person’s health over time. Short term, being active has the potential to boost your mood – reducing depression and anxiety, helping you to feel energized, and giving your sleep schedule a boost.
But what about long term effects?
The CDC lists several long term effects of consistent physical activity, including:
- Weight management
- Reducing health risks of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers
- Strengthening bones and muscles
- Improving balance, cognition and mobility
- Increasing lifespan
Physical activity over the long term often reduces the risk of chronic disease for many people. Additionally, for those managing or recently diagnosed with a chronic disease, regular physical activity can help lead a healthier lifestyle, with fewer complications of your condition.
The Importance of Physical Activity for People Living with Chronic Disease
If you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic disease, you already know that moving forward, it’s all about finding ways to manage it.
Living with a chronic disease can be difficult. It often limits participation in activities you enjoy, or requires you to modify daily activities and chores. But this isn’t the extent of it – of these, many people have two or more diagnosed conditions. This diagnosis often makes it difficult to live a “typical” lifestyle, as chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in the United States.
Additionally, managing one or more chronic diseases is expensive. In turn, more than 75% of all health care costs are due to chronic conditions.
The task of managing a chronic disease can seem overwhelming or near impossible, but it’s important to remember you are not alone.
Teams of medical professionals, including doctors and physical therapists are ready to help you create a management plan and take charge of your condition. There are many ways you can control your conditions and symptoms and lead the lifestyle you want. Your condition does not have to define your lifestyle.
Continuing reading to learn how regular physical activity and early intervention can help you manage your chronic disease and take charge of your health.
Understanding Chronic Diseases
Chronic diseases are defined as a health condition that lasts for a long period of time and have significant impact on an individual’s lifestyle. However, it is essential to keep in mind that not all individuals with chronic diseases have persistent symptoms.
More than half of the American population suffers from one or more chronic diseases and many people have two or more diagnosed conditions.
Examples of Common Chronic Diseases
There are numerous types of chronic diseases that may impact a person’s life, but some of the most commonly diagnosed are the following.
- Chronic Pain
- Heart Disease
- Joint Pain
Risk Factors for Chronic Diseases
Like with other health conditions, chronic diseases are the cumulative result of many circumstances and lifestyle choices. Hereditary factors may increase the risk of a diagnosis like this, but there are other considerations, too.
Common risk factors that may lead to a chronic disease diagnosis include:
- Tobacco use
- Poor nutrition
- Lack of physical activity
- Excessive alcohol use
- High blood pressure or cholesterol
Ideally, adopting a healthy lifestyle early helps to prevent these chronic diseases from developing. For some, a chronic disease diagnosis may not be preventable, however participating in healthy lifestyle choices soon after diagnosis can help keep these conditions from becoming debilitating. From the moment of diagnosis, patients like you will work with healthcare providers to find the best ways for you to manage your condition.
There are many ways to accomplish this, and the course of action differs from patient to patient but two of the most useful lifestyle changes – and those widely recommended by doctors – are nutritional habits and physical activity.
For this article, the focus is on physical activity for those already diagnosed with one or more chronic diseases.
What Does Physical Activity Entail?
Being active is recommended for everyone, but it is especially important for those dealing with health complications – like chronic diseases. There are different levels of activity, but it’s agreed upon by both the medical and scientific communities that some activity is better than no activity.
Finding the best ways to accommodate personal needs while still being active is imperative to maintaining health – and that’s where physical therapists can help.
Not only are physical therapy professionals capable of assisting patients with the recommended exercises, they also create an exercise plan for you. Since physical therapists are trained to notice changes in patient health, they are able to modify exercise plans, collaborate with doctors and nurses, and further help patients.
For those with chronic diseases, the level of physical activity possible varies on a case by case basis. What one patient is capable of does not indicate what is possible for another patient with the same condition.
Focusing on a broad range of general exercises is best, as whole body health is essential in managing chronic diseases. This is also best because it means that if one type of exercise is difficult due to your diagnosis, there are others that you can focus on – or try to implement.
The Benefits of Exercise for Those With Chronic Illnesses
Understandably, medical professionals tout the benefits of exercise for all. Being active has many overall health advantages, but these are especially important for those with chronic diseases. While they aren’t radically different in terms of what they offer, the impact may mean more in the long run.
To understand how an exercise – or different types of exercise – helps you, learning more about not only the activities, but your overall condition is essential. The more you know about what you face, the better off you are. Doctors, nurses, and physical therapists work to educate patients and their families whenever possible.
The Benefits of Physical Therapy for People With Chronic Diseases
After a chronic disease diagnosis, patients are often unsure of where they can – or should – turn for help. Yes, doctors and nurses are essential to continued care and pain management, but who else can help? Physical therapists may not diagnose your condition in the first place, but they certainly help with managing (and in some cases improving) it over time.
With a chronic disease or illness, lifestyle changes are inevitable. For some, it happens quickly, but in other situations, these changes happen slowly over time. No matter the scenario you face, working with a physical therapy team is a great way to build healthy routines and increase strength and stamina for increased movement and activity levels.
With physical therapy and physical activity integrated into your daily habits, you now have a routine. This is important, because it keeps you active, minimizes pain and discomfort, and helps to keep you on track and living your version of your best life. Physical therapists are trained to assess individual patient needs and formulate plans and schedules for activity based on these results.
No two physical therapy plans are the same – and no individual physical therapy plan is static.
What does this mean? Your treatment plan will evolve and change as your capabilities and goals change over time. Just because you start with a specific routine doesn’t mean it’s permanent. Your physical therapist will monitor progress and ask for your feedback to create a physical therapy program that works for you – both in-clinic and from your home or office.
Physical activity may not cure chronic diseases, but participating in regular exercise or physical therapy often assists with decreasing potential complications from them. In addition, it helps to ensure that people get back to an active lifestyle as quickly – and painlessly – as possible. You may not have control over your diagnosis, but with the help of a physical therapy team, you have the ability to lead your own pain management experience. Read on to find out more about the most effective types of exercise for those diagnosed with chronic diseases.
Beneficial Exercises for Those With Chronic Diseases
To work with a physical therapist and choose the right exercises for your individual needs, it’s important to understand the types of exercise possible. Breaking it down into three specific categories – aerobic, strength training, and flexibility – is the first step.
Aerobic Exercise for Chronic Diseases
These types of exercises do a great deal of good for many parts of the body at once. Physical therapy experts promote aerobic exercise because it increases your heart rate and the rate of breathing at the same time.
With these types of exercises, each minute counts.
This means even if you only exercise for a short period of time, it’s useful. Aerobic – and cardio – exercises after diagnosis can often prevent underlying conditions from causing more severe symptoms or conditions in the future. Examples of aerobic exercises include:
- Walking, jogging, and running
- Team or individual sports that involve running
- Household chores like yardwork
Strength Training Exercises
When people hear “strength training,” they often think of people lifting heavy weights in order to gain bulging muscles. This isn’t always the desired outcome, nor the only benefit of strength training. For many, the benefits of strength training exercises is simply to improve muscle and bodily strength, endurance and joint stability. Many chronic illnesses result in slow but steady declines in muscle strength and overall function – this can help limit that.
Chronic diseases often make people feel weak, but strength training is a great way to combat this feeling. This is also a useful way to slowly increase capability over time, which means modifying routines and exercises as progress is made – or, in some cases, as the illness progresses. The more vigilant you are with strength training, the stronger you become.
The goal is to improve balance, recover quickly, after exercise and reduce the risk for injury over time. Strength training exercises that help accomplish this include:
- Full body or muscle-specific exercises using free weights or machines
- Medicine or stability balls
Increasing Flexibility is Essential for Those With Chronic Diseases
Being flexible isn’t simply about being loose, it’s also about becoming more stable. Properly stretching before and after exercise reduces the likelihood of additional injuries – like muscle sprains, strains, and joint issues.
Stretching impacts all major muscle groups, which makes it useful for many people. By increasing bodily range of motion, function also increases. This, in turn helps with stability and balance – and reduces risk of a fall or overall imbalance.
Stretching exercises that benefit those with chronic diseases include:
- Upper and lower body stretching routines
- Tai chi
- Arm and leg raises
Choosing the correct stretching exercises and performing them correctly is important, so reaching out to someone in the know (like a physical therapist) is particularly important for this type of exercise.
Seeking Physical Therapy For Chronic Disease Management
After a diagnosis of any chronic diseases, finding the best ways to manage it is the first step. Often, this includes many lifestyle changes and challenges, but please remember: you are not alone.
There are plenty of certified medical experts available to guide you through the diagnosis and the aftermath. These include medical teams made of doctors, nurses and specialists, nutritionists, and physical therapy professionals and their assistants. By utilizing all of the available resources, you have the best chance at properly managing your condition and taking charge of your health well into the future.
Luckily for patients, finding and working with physical therapists has never been easier. With the BetterPT clinic location tool, you can search for a clinic or network near you. In addition, there is an easy to use mobile app for the same purposes. Once you’ve found options for treatment, beginning your therapy sessions is the next step.
But that isn’t where the benefits of these options ends, either.
In addition to traditional in-clinic physical therapy, the option for Telehealth visits exists, too. Platforms like BetterTelehalth offer patients with chronic diseases the ability to schedule and attend sessions with their therapists virtually.
Why is this important?
- Even after the COVID-19 pandemic is less prominent, the option of Telehealth puts patients in charge of when and how they conduct physical therapy sessions.
- Telehealth is convenient! By offering this option, physical therapy becomes more accessible to more people.
- Telehealth ensures all patients feel “seen” and heard with private, one-on-one sessions. This means patients and physical therapists are completely focused.
Start the process of taking control of your health today.
Get in contact with a local physical therapy professional and begin developing the best possible management plan for your chronic illness. It’s your life – don’t do yourself a disservice by ignoring avenues for improvement.