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It seems simplistic to generalize and assume that the same positive benefits would and could be correlated with something simply similar in name, but different in nature. At the same time, it seems impossible that they wouldn’t be related as they have similar effects. General physical activity releases endorphins that are associated with positivity and improved mental health, and physical therapy is a practice to improve general well-being and restore optimal function of the patient. Similar, but not the same. 

For those wondering about the benefits of physical therapy, improved mental wellbeing might be a side-effect. 

Study on Exercise Therapy and Depression 

According to this study, researchers found that as it pertains to mild-to-moderate depression, the effect of exercise therapy may be comparable to antidepressant medication, and as it pertains to severe depression, exercise looked to be a valuable complementary therapy to the ‘traditional’ treatments. General findings were as follows: exercise therapy tends to improve physical health, body image, patient’s coping strategies with stress, quality of life, and independence in activities of daily living in older adults. The researchers found that motivational strategies (rewarding and recognizing good work or effort, etc.) should be implemented alongside exercise therapy, thereby increasing general motivation in addition to physical and mental wellbeing. 

Here are a few benefits of exercise on mental health: 

  • Exercise can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Exercise tends to improve the quality of sleep
  • Exercise tends to improve self-esteem and perceived self-worth
  • Exercise tends to improve and increase social interaction
  • When completing a workout or exercise routine, you feel accomplished and successful
  • Exercise improves brain functionality
  • Exercise generally improves mood
  • Exercise reduces fatigue 
  • Physical activity can improve mental alertness
  • Exercise is an all-inclusive, healthy activity that all family members can participate in

But that’s still just specific to exercise rather than physical therapy. The industry’s role in improving mental health through physical therapy is as follows:

  1. Physical therapists are to determine a baseline health and fitness level for the new patient, as well as establish the patient’s goals in the area
  2. They are to determine what exercises are appropriate for an individual based off of specific testing to then act as a wellness consultant and guide while creating and progressing a home exercise program
  3. Physical therapists can and should with a patient’s current fitness professional (such as a personal trainer) to determine mobility deficits that are impairing an individual’s ability to exercise
  4. They are to teach about certain medications that impact the body’s inherent response to exercise.

These roles and duties of the PT professional will lead to the creation of a safe program for each individual based on their specific needs and goals. 

The fact that each training program is fine-tuned to the patient shows that their physical therapist cares about them as an individual and wants to help the patient to achieve their goals for them, rather than for any sort of gain on the side of the physical therapist. 

World Physical Therapy Day in 2018 Focused on “Physical Therapy and Mental Health”

September 8th is known as World Physical Therapy Day; each year the organization has a new campaign with a different focus related to the topic. In 2018, the campaign sought to demonstrate the role that physical therapy and physical activity has on mental health. 

That campaign had 5 key messages: 

  1. Exercise as an evidence-based treatment for depression
  2. The role of physical therapists working with patients who may have mental health issues
  3. The benefits of physical activity in protecting against the emergence of depression
  4. How better outcomes are experienced when exercise is delivered by a qualified healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist
  5. How people with mental health issues are more at risk of having poor physical health

According to the World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT), “The day marks the unity and solidarity of the physical therapy community around the world. It is an opportunity to recognize the work that physical therapists do for their patients and community.” 

The ideas and goals the WCPT shared for this international awareness day remain true to this day. The more that people prioritize physical and mental well-being, the happier the world has the potential to become. 

Physical Therapy Positively Impacts Mental Health

Think about it like this: when you have allergies and you can’t breathe properly, you’re never more grateful than when you resume breathing normally. Or, when you sprain an ankle, twist a wrist, or have a migraine, you never realize how good you had it when functioning properly. That is how physical therapy helps with mental health. If you’re dealing with long-term pain or a lasting work or sports injury, you get down because you remember how good it felt to not feel pain. Once the pain has lasted for weeks and then months, you begin to forget what life was without pain. That is when motivation decreases and general mood wanes. 

How can this be cured? By getting rid of that pain for good. But, you can’t go it 100% alone. By turning to a licensed physical therapist, you’re getting top-of-the-line treatment and care to get you back to feeling footloose and fancy-free. 

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