Physical therapy can help improve your physical strength and mental health, especially if you have chronic pain or a new injury. Your physical therapist will give you exercises prescribed specifically for you to improve your function. Your physical therapist will provide emotional support and serve as a source of encouragement as you go through the process.
Yes, physical therapy can have a positive impact on mental health. While physical therapy primarily focuses on improving physical function and treating physical conditions, it can also benefit mental well-being.
Here are several ways in which physical therapy can contribute to better mental health:
- Endorphin Release: Physical therapy often involves exercise and movement, which can stimulate the release of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are natural chemicals that act as mood enhancers, helping to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression while promoting a sense of well-being.
- Stress Reduction: Engaging in physical activity through physical therapy can help reduce stress levels. Exercise has been shown to lower cortisol, the stress hormone, and promote relaxation. Physical therapy techniques such as massage and stretching can help relieve muscle tension and promote relaxation.
- Enhanced Self-esteem and Confidence: Physical therapy can improve strength, mobility, and overall physical function. As individuals progress in their physical abilities, it can increase self-esteem and confidence, positively impacting their mental well-being.
- Distraction and Focus: Physical therapy exercises and activities can distract positively from negative thoughts and worries. Engaging in physical tasks requires focus, which can help redirect attention away from stressors and improve mental clarity.
- Social Interaction: Many physical therapy sessions are conducted in group settings, providing an opportunity for social interaction and support. Engaging with others going through similar experiences can foster a sense of belonging and combat feelings of isolation, contributing to improved mental health.
- Mind-Body Connection: Physical therapy often emphasizes the mind-body connection, promoting awareness of how physical movements and sensations impact overall well-being. This focus can help individuals better understand their bodies, emotions, and stress responses, leading to improved mental and emotional regulation.
Exercise and Mental Health Benefits
As you increase your mobility and function, the chemistry of the body is affected. Improving your range of motion allows you to engage in activities that are meaningful to you and helps to improve your mood.
Health Benefits of Exercise
- People who exercise regularly have better emotional well-being and mental health with lower rates of mental illness.
- Exercise is vital for people struggling with mental illness – it boosts your mood, concentration, and alertness and improves your cardiovascular and overall physical health.
- Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous, structured, or take a long time to have benefits.
- Any exercise is better than none, but experts recommend adults should be active most days, for 2.5-5 hours of moderate physical activity or 1.25-2.5 hours of vigorous physical exercise per week.
Exercise increases the neurotransmitter serotonin in your brain, boosting the body’s endorphin levels and improving sleep. All of these significantly help regulate your mood and prevent risks of brain damage. Physical activity also allows you to feel a sense of accomplishment. Especially when you see progress in your therapy outcomes and reach your personal goals.
Why Physical Therapy Makes a Difference
For those who are physically restricted, mental health is a concerning factor. We learned this during the Covid-19 pandemic when most of us were more socially isolated for an extended period.
There are consequences to our mental health during isolation. An evidence-based study in the Lancet showed us the profound psychological impact of being in quarantine, with people experiencing symptoms of irritability, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and insomnia. All of these symptoms can be combated with exercise and regular routines.
Physical therapy provides patients with one-to-one interaction (virtual or in-person) with their physical therapist. In forming this relationship, your physical therapist becomes a source of external support and a potential mentor.
Physical therapy improves your quality of life overall. It gives you opportunities for social interaction with your community. Physical therapy has been known to have the same effects as antidepressants for people diagnosed with clinical depression.
Regular Physical Activity is Important
Many patients who suffer from chronic pain experience depression when they can only perform limited activities—especially pronounced in those with chronic illnesses. Restoring function and reducing pain is the key to wellness and better mental health.
Restoring your strength with physical therapy allows you to avoid further injury and more pain in the future. Regular exercise teaches the brain to learn more about your body’s limits, reinforces movement patterns, and helps retrain your muscles. Then you become more active, feel good, and experience less pain.
Physical Therapy Benefits For Behavioral and Mental Disorders
Physical therapy has also positively impacted patients with mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. In a randomized clinical trial, therapists concluded that one to two hours of exercise per week reduces the need for cognitive treatments while improving the patients’ cardiovascular fitness.
Anxiety and depression are common disorders, and exercise has significantly reduced symptoms. Symptoms of other severe health conditions have also been decreased, such as heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and even cancer.
Exercise improves body image, stimulates constructive coping strategies, and fosters a stable sense of independence.
While physical therapy can provide valuable benefits for mental health, it is important to note that it may not be a standalone solution for severe mental health conditions. It can be utilized as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, alongside other interventions such as counseling or medication, depending on individual needs.
Physical Therapy for Your Condition
At Synergy Physical Therapy & Wellness, our Physical Therapists can help improve or restore the mobility you need to move forward in your life. If you are looking for a possible alternative to surgery, shots, and/or medications, consider Synergy as your solution.