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Physical therapy’s role in total mind-body healing

A serious fall, a heart attack or other major medical event can affect physical health, but it can also take a toll on mental health. Worrying about needing treatment or surgery, concerns about the impact on family and career, and dealing with pain can be stressful. This increased stress can lead to feelings of depression or other mental health issues.

During the time of healing, it is important to treat both the body and the mind for a successful recovery. In a study published by the National Institutes of Health, researchers noted that there is no real division between mind and body because of the many networks of communication between the brain and the body’s systems. It is therefore important to give attention to the body as a whole. As World Mental Health Day approaches on October 10, it is a time to remember this connection between physical and mental health.

Addressing the need for treating physical and mental health together

An effective method of addressing mental health following a medical event is through physical therapy. While physical therapy addresses many of the body’s mechanical needs during recovery, it can also help with mental health.

Here are five mental health benefits of physical therapy.

Improves mood

Feeling pain and stress can negatively affect your state of mind. Studies have shown that physical activity increases the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which affects mood. This increase can improve a person’s mood and help prevent further mental distress.

Builds self-esteem

When normal abilities are interrupted by a medical event, it can be damaging to self-esteem. Coping with being unable to do everyday activities without help is hard to accept. Participating in simple physical exercises can provide a feeling of accomplishment and help with acceptance of new limitations. A focus on what can be done instead of what can’t be done builds self-esteem.

Reduces depression

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Going through surgery or an unexpected medical event can cause a person to wonder, “Why does this have to happen to me?” This can lead to depression, which can negatively affect the healing process. Physical activity can release chemicals called endorphins that trigger a positive feeling in the body. Endorphins also interact with the receptors in the brain to decrease the perception of pain. This combination of a positive feeling and pain reduction can help reduce depression.

Improves sleep

Sleep is an important part of mental health. When a person sleeps, the mind is able to rest and recharge. During sleep, the brain sorts out new information, emotions and memories. Without proper sleep, stress levels and anxiety can increase because the brain has not been able to have enough time to recharge. Exercise can help the body fall asleep more quickly and experience a deeper and higher-quality level of sleep, providing a better mental outlook on life.

Provides social support

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Working with a physical therapist can reduce the feelings of isolation caused by medical issues. Being with others who share an interest in your health is reassuring. A therapist can provide encouragement and information about the recovery process. Setting a physical therapy goal and then reaching it helps to regain a sense of control, which can reduce anxiety. A physical therapist can also help address balance and strength issues to help increase confidence.

Getting care for both the mind and body

The recovery process can be challenging for both physical and mental health. Fears that another mishap can lead to more limitations and other concerns about future health can make it hard to have a positive outlook. Another way to be sure that both physical and mental needs are addressed is to choose to recover in a short-term rehabilitation center where there is an experienced staff ready to meet all needs, 24-hours a day.

Whitehall of Deerfield is one of the area’s premier choices for post-hospital recovery and has consistently received Medicare’s highest rating in Medicare’s five-star rating system of nursing and post-hospital rehabilitation centers. Learn more about the individualized, one-on-one therapy programs, hotel-like amenities and COVID-19 safety measures by visiting WhiteHallofDeerfield.com or calling 847-945-4600.

— J. Buchenot for Whitehall of Deerfield

300 Waukegan Road Deerfield, IL 60015 | 847.945.4600