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Ways Physical Therapy Improves Mental Health

Updated: Jan 15

Physical therapy offers a range of benefits to help individuals manage physical limitations and the stress, depression, and anxiety such challenges can cause. While focused primarily on restoring physical ability and minimizing pain, physical therapy can also help boost mood and reduce feelings of frustration and sadness related to physical limitations. Learn the ways physical therapy improves mental health.

Why Doctors Refer Patients to Physical Therapy

Physical therapists provide treatment plans and exercises tailored to helping stroke patients, athletes, amputees, and many others regain as much of their former mobility as possible. They help patients with arthritis or those recovering from broken bones, as well as people with balance disorders and perceptual difficulties that affect their physical abilities.

Physical therapists are trained in a variety of techniques that can relieve pain, heal injuries, increase mobility, strengthen muscles, improve balance, and help patients develop better coordination. Physical therapists also are schooled in relaxation techniques and can educate patients on how to prevent future injury. These therapists develop a plan with each of their patients that is tailored to that person’s individual needs and goals. Physical therapy is not a substitute for mental health treatment, but it can be an effective supplement to such care.

Physical Therapy Can Improve Self-Esteem

Physical therapy can help to build a patient’s willingness to take on physical challenges. It can also benefit children with autism, building confidence and related social skills to enable them to participate more fully in games and physical play with peers.

Exercises that target strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility can help individuals gain a sense of pride in their accomplishments. Working with an experienced physical therapist, persons with physical or intellectual disabilities can set realistic goals and see progress over time, building a sense of self-efficacy, along with improved body image.

Stress Relief

Physical therapy can help alleviate chronic stress and intense emotions. In addition to boosting serotonin, which lifts mood, the guided exercises physical therapists coach patients through restore physical ability and release endorphins, hormones that aid in pain and stress relief.

Improved Sleep

Another benefit of the increased serotonin levels physical therapy can trigger is that neurotransmitter’s contribution to regulating sleep cycles. Insufficient serotonin negatively impacts sleep quality, leaving people feeling fatigued and unable to function effectively during the day.

Coping Skills

Physical therapy sessions can improve an individual’s ability to cope with difficult situations by teaching them how to adapt to or decrease their physical limitations. Physical therapists can teach people who are injured or have a disability certain exercises to reduce pain, increase mobility, improve balance and muscle strength, and release tension and stress.

Overall, physical therapy helps individuals who have physical limitations, difficulty with balance or muscle strength, or trouble sensing where their bodies are in space relative to other objects and people. However, it can simultaneously positively affect mental health. From increased self-esteem and improved coping skills to decreased stress levels and better sleep, physical therapy can improve mental health. It helps individuals manage their physical challenges and associated mental health issues in a safe and supportive environment.

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