Using Physical Therapy to Offset the Effects of Disability For a Patient
Today, disabilities are looked at as a form of diversity. According to the World Bank, over one billion people, which is about 15% of the globe’s population – have some form of disability. Disabilities are not the same across the board for all patients, which makes finding the best ways to manage and treat them essential. Patients may be able to handle some aspects of their diagnosis on their own, but in order to receive the best care, involving others is often necessary. Specialists like doctors, nurses, advice from others that have the same disabilities and even family members can provide a great deal of assistance, but one of the most helpful resources for someone with a disability is physical therapy.
The following graphic from the CDC (full image here) shows the impact of disabilities in the United States alone:
How can a physical therapist help someone living with a disability?
To understand the answer to this question, you’ll need to better understand what physical therapy is – and what a physical therapist does.
Simply put, physical therapy is designed to help patients regain or learn the ability to function in the world around them. People often associate physical therapy with patients who have experienced severe injuries to different parts of their bodies in accidents or as the result of surgery, but this isn’t always the case. The basis of physical therapy sessions is focused on finding the best ways for patients to navigate the world around them, growing and becoming more confident in their abilities as time passes.
In order to develop a successful physical therapy program for each patient, a therapist will follow a list of steps that includes:
- Meeting and assessing each patient and their initial ability
- Creating a plan that will, over time, allow patients to develop their existing skills, learn new ones, and even find new and improved ways to complete daily tasks like self-care, seeking employment, operating within a family unit, and promoting better overall health.
- Seeing patients and loved ones through the process of learning these new methods and putting them into practice on a daily basis.
Who can benefit from disability-oriented physical therapy?
The nature of a person’s disability may limit the effectiveness of some traditional physical therapy practices, but skilled medical professionals will always be able to work with patients to find the best solutions for a situation. Physical therapy as a method for helping to limit the effects of a disability is not only for adults. There are subsets of physical therapy providers who can work with parents and their children from early on in order to promote success, even in an educational or other out of office environments.
Disability conditions commonly treated by physical therapists
The list of disabilities that physical therapy programs may be able to help treat is extensive, but the following are a few of the more common ones that patients experience.
- Epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis and even those that have suffered from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may benefit from physical therapy sessions. Strengthening the body as well as strengthening the mind, and learning modified ways to complete regular tasks will help patients learn to live with their diagnosis.
- A condition that impacts the body of patients beginning in their early years, management of the symptoms throughout a patient’s entire life is necessary, too. A physical therapist will promote strength and movement improvement throughout all three stages of a patient’s life: childhood, adolescence and adulthood, modifying the treatment as necessary.
- This diagnosis often results in patients needing to use braces and assistive devices throughout their lives, but physical therapy professionals are there to help. Not only can PT help patients learn to move without these devices when possible, they also teach patients how to use them properly when they become necessary. Physical therapy isn’t only about getting mobile, it’s also about staying that way.
Fatigue and general pain
- This diagnosis (headaches, Fibromyalgia, etc.) can effectively be treated with physical therapy. For patients of this nature, it can be difficult – if not impossible – to get through day to day life without struggling, but a physical therapist can change this. While they cannot make it so that patients are no longer experiencing their symptoms, teaching them coping methods and modifications for daily activities.
Physical therapy can – and does – help those living with disabilities
A great deal of research has been done on the use of physical therapy practices to help offset the effects of disability on patients, but something that all medical practitioners agree on is this: it is possible to make positive changes. Those with disabilities may always have to make modifications to the way that they live each day, but this doesn’t mean that they cannot be helped. The knowledge of the medical community grows with each patient that is seen and treated, making it possible in the future to do more good for those living with disability, no matter what the condition may entail.
If you or a loved one has a disability that could potentially be better managed through the use of physical therapy, visit the BetterPT site to find a physical therapy provider located nearby. You can also download the BetterPT scheduling app and have this information in the palm of your hands no matter where you might be.
Dr. Marla Ranieri graduated from Stanford University with her bachelor’s degree in Human Biology in 2005 and went on to receive her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2009. She has worked with all types of individuals, including professional athletes as part of the USA Gymnastics Medical Staff. Marla continues to treat patients with evidence-based medicine and the best quality of care.