Neurology Insights

Physical Therapy: Your Key to Wellness!

Patient Doing Physical Therapy Exercises

Having practiced in southwest Florida for more than 20 years as a Board-Certified Neurologist, one thing is certain in health care: getting people moving and keeping them active is the key to health care. But there are so many illnesses and injuries that can prevent people from being active; from simple sprains and strains of ligaments and muscles, to arthritis and back pain, and to medical problems such as neurologic conditions, heart, or lung disease. Physical therapy can be the key that can unlock your health!

Physical Therapists are professionals that offer cost effective care that can reduce pain, increase function and mobility, and hopefully decrease or eliminate the need for medications, injections, and at times, even surgery.

Movement is essential for all of us. It helps to reduce obesity and improve metabolism. It is also essential for focus and attention; movement helps decrease depression and improve mood and energy. Movement also plays a role in maintaining your balance system and independence. By simply walking every day, you can reduce your chance of a stroke or heart attack.

Physical therapy can also play an integral role in treating many common conditions such as low back pain, neck pain, knee and shoulder joint dysfunction. For example, in many cases surgery can be avoided and medication usage can be significantly reduced with the role of focused physical therapy. This can lower the cost of health care, as well as the side effects of narcotic and anti-inflammatory medications (nausea, constipation, lethargy, confusion to name a few!). Possibly one of the most important aspects of physical therapy is that it lets the patient play a key role in their health and recovery.

Having a patient centered plan that is designed and created just for you can be empowering and can be essential in eliminating any roadblocks to recovery.

What is a physical therapist and what can they do for you?

Physical therapists are smart folks; they have completed a college education program and have a graduate degree, either a Master’s or clinical doctorate. They must graduate from an accredited program, and then must pass a national licensure examination. With their extensive knowledge, they are an integral component in the health care team, helping to diagnose and examine patients and outlining a treatment plan to limit or eliminate conditions that effect a patient’s ability to move and function.

A physical therapist often works in tandem with a physical therapy assistant (PTA), another licensed and experienced specialist who works directly under the supervision of the physical therapist. This team approach is extremely effective. Working together, they will devise and outline a treatment plan. This may include modalities such as heat, ice, ultrasound, electric stimulation, and massage. Also, components of care may be therapeutic exercise, functional training, gait and balance intervention, and proper body mechanics. They may create a home exercise program and in many cases, may provide a spinal reconditioning and rehabilitation program.

Common Myths about Physical Therapy

1. Physical Therapy is going to hurt. A study shows that 71% of people that have not had therapy believe this.

FACT: The reality is that if you are seeing a therapist you already hurt. Or have a joint that isn’t working well. Or have spine pain. Or have some bodily limitation. The goal of the therapist is to limit pain and improve function.

 2. You should only have physical therapy if you have had an accident or are injured.

FACT: Therapists are expertly trained to evaluate and correct problems before they become serious. They can diagnose and manage disorders including carpal tunnel syndrome, neck and low back pain, headaches, and shoulder problems, just to name a few. AND, they can also treat and strengthen muscles and tendons and ligaments after an injury or trauma.

 3. Physical Therapy is not covered by insurance.

FACT: Therapy is almost always covered by insurance. Sometimes there are insurance limits and this has to be in checked with each policy. However, therapy can often be extremely cost-effective; it can reduce the need for medications, it can reduce the need for imaging and surgery. It may also be effective in reducing falls, thereby reducing additional injuries.

 4. Surgery is necessary, and it is my only option.

FACT: Physical Therapy can often be as effective as surgery when treating a number of specific conditions. This can include spinal conditions and degenerative disc disease, rotator cuff shoulder injuries, and even meniscal tears in the knee.

 5. I can do physical therapy myself, I don’t need a licensed therapist.

FACT: While it is true that the patient has to do the exercises, it is only possible to reach your maximum potential for recovery with an expert, individualized treatment plan.

For more information about how physical therapy fits into your wellness planning, contact our team of medical professionals.

Possible causes of these problems could include the following:

Medications – Many senior adults are on single or multiple medicines; one or all of these could be interacting to cause a deficit in memory and attention and concentration.

Head Injuries – While most people would recall a major head trauma, such simple things (in the elderly) as bumping their head on the car door, or a violent sneeze could produce a problem that leads to memory loss and problems with concentration.

Nutritional Issues or Vitamin Deficiencies – Many elderly have an incomplete diet, lacking the necessary nutrients and vitamins. Frequently low B12 levels can produce the exact symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease – There has been a recent explosion of information regarding gluten and other factors that may have adverse effects on brain activity.

Significant Medical Conditions – Diseases such as low thyroid or abnormal sugar metabolism can produce difficulties with concentration, attention, focus, and memory. Improving your medical management can often improve your thinking ability.

Substance Use – Chronic alcohol use, even mild or moderate amounts over a long period of time, can have an adverse effect on memory, attention, balance, and coordination. More recently, with the push to legalize marijuana, we know this may have an adverse impact on brain functioning.

Depression – Senior adults who are depressed can manifest this as clinical dementia. They have all of the signs and symptoms of dementia, but it is the chemical change in the brain from depression causing this.

What will your doctor do?

They will take a complete history, as well as family history, do a neurological examination, and then most likely order diagnostic testing. This may include MRI of the brain, EEG to check the rhythm of the brain, blood flow studies, and laboratories. In addition, a paper and pencil test (neuropsychological testing) may be helpful.

Based on these results, appropriate treatment can be initiated. This may include behavior modification, medications, cognitive retraining, and physical exercise just to name a few. Entering into a clinical trial may be an option. All of this can be discussed with your physician and your family.

For more information about Alzheimer’s Diagnostics, contact our team of medical professionals. 

Feel free to share this with the people in your life who may benefit from this information! For more insights on neurology, check out our weekly tips on our Neurology Office Facebook page.

“To Cure Sometimes, To Heal Often, To Comfort Always”

Neurology Office, Joseph Kandel M.D. and Associates

Concierge medicine without the concierge price”

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