When looking at wellness holistically, mental health is as central to the complete picture as weight, inflammation, energy levels, and immunity response. As part of your medical professionals team, physical therapists welcome the opportunity to help manage optimal mental health along with physical health.
In characterizing physical therapy, it’s natural to focus on the physical benefits of treatment, such as increased range of motion, strength, and stability. However, the overarching goal of physical therapy is to optimize overall health, wellness, and function. To do that, we can’t ignore the central role the brain plays in healing the body.
While a physical therapist (PT) does not replace a mental health professional (therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist), there are many ways your PT can be part of your mental health management regimen, particularly for the most common issues such as anxiety and depression.
Help you Understand the Importance of Exercise
There are countless studies concluding the positive benefits of exercise, such as improved body image, increased energy levels, reduced stress, elevated mood, better sleep, and higher self-confidence. Exercise is also a central component of most mental health treatment plans.
Design an Exercise Plan
Getting started with exercise is challenging. Sticking with it is even more difficult if you have physical obstacles that cause pain or limit your range of motion. This is where your PT shines as a key player in your mental health treatment strategy. At your initial visit, your PT will evaluate your physical state and identify areas that are posing challenges. From there, your PT will design a program tailored to meet your specific needs. Roping a PT into your medical team adds a layer of support to help you reach your physical, as well as mental goals.
Cope with Stress
Stress comes from a variety of sources. Exercise helps mitigate the everyday stress we all face from life pressures and busy schedules. Dealing with physical challenges that limit your ability to exercise only adds to that stress. In addition, you may be addressing anxiety following or preceding surgery, or reeling from the shock of an accident or injury. Chronic pain commonly leads to feelings of depression and even desperation.
Your PT is an important tool in maneuvering through those feelings. He or she will meet you wherever you’re at in regards to your fitness abilities. They will create a plan that will get you moving again while considering your limitations. In short, there is an exercise plan for every ‘body’ and your PT will help identify it so you can reap the stress-reducing rewards.
Other Mental Health Benefits of Physical Therapy
Increasing movement comes full circle with better sleep, more self-confidence, lower stress, and thus, better mental health stability (as part of an overall treatment plan). But physical therapy offers other mental health benefits beyond increasing mobility and strength. For example, consistency is another pillar of mental health. Regular appointments offer structure through face-to-face interactions and routine home exercises.
In addition, physical therapy aids in managing pain. As stated previously, chronic pain can be a deterrent to exercise, and a primary contributor to depression. Addressing the core issues of the pain can improve the ability to cope with the associated mental health aspects.
In a more general sense, physical therapy empowers the patient with hope, a plan, and a better understanding of their condition and the requirements to reach their goals.
Physical therapists are one piece of the mental health treatment puzzle. Inasmuch, they are skilled at communicating with other health professionals and members of your support team. For example, a PT may understand and respond to the effect of certain medications your doctor prescribes. Similarly, your PT can work with your personal trainer to identify appropriate exercises that are in alignment with your goals.
Wherever you are on your physical and mental health journey, tapping into the resources at Encore Physical Therapy can provide you with the assessment, support, and guidance you need to keep your mental health on track.