The Role of Physiotherapy in Mental Illness
Struggling with depression or other mental illness? Have a hard time coping with the pain caused by injury? Then you might benefit from seeing a physiotherapist! Those who work in this field have the skills needed to help you overcome pain and emotional distress. Besides treating physical injuries, they work with people with mental problems, such as depression, dementia, and anxiety.
Research shows that physiotherapy can improve a patient’s quality of life. This practice can make it easier to deal with stress, overcome trauma, and ward off fatigue.
For instance, certain medications and illnesses affect your mood. You may feel tired, fatigued, and unmotivated. Your sleep could suffer too. A skilled physiotherapist can help relieve these symptoms and help you recover faster.
Mental Health and Physiotherapy: What’s the Link?
More than 450 million people worldwide suffer from mental illnesses. Most disorders are characterized by abnormal thoughts, behavior, and emotions. Sufferers may not be able to interact with others, keep their jobs, or face their daily problems. Those diagnosed with schizophrenia, depression, or bipolar disorder and are often physically ill.
Mental and physical health are strongly connected. If the brain doesn’t function optimally, your body will suffer. According to researchers, most diseases are psychosomatic. This means they involve both your mind and body. For instance, high blood pressure, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and psoriasis are often worsened by stress. If you’re anxious or depressed, you may experience flare-ups.
Things are even worse for those recovering from injury or struggling with physical diseases. Stress, depression, and other mental blesses can slow down their recovery and make pain worse. Several studies conducted over the years have proven the benefits of physiotherapy on mental health. This discipline can be successfully used for preventing and treating cognitive disorders, anxiety syndrome, chronic depression, addictions, and memory impairment.
Health Factors Influenced by Exercise
The exercises prescribed by physiotherapists may help lift your mood and improve your quality of life. For this reason, they are an integral part of rehabilitation programs in mental health care. This is actually one of the few professions that fill the gap between mental and physical health.
For example, chronic pain is a major contributing factor to depression. If you suffer from chronic pain, the physiotherapist will assess your condition and address its root cause. They will also ask questions about your lifestyle, including your work and leisure time. Based on their findings, they will prescribe a treatment plan that may include exercises, postural correction, and stress management strategies. The physiotherapist will show you how to relax and cope with pain, recommend lifestyle changes, and provide support during treatment.
Let’s say you’re struggling with insomnia or other sleep disorder. These conditions may lead to fatigue, anxiety, poor mental focus, migraines, and reduced productivity. The physiotherapist can recommend breathing techniques, massage, and exercises that help improve sleep. Lifestyle changes can have a great impact on health and quality of life.
The exercises used in physiotherapy boast various benefits, including:
• Reduce the need for medications, such as antidepressants
• Improve mood and well-being
• Enhance cognitive function
• Create a sense of achievement
• Relieve stress and anxiety
• Boost self-esteem and body image
• Improve quality of sleep
• Reduce depression symptoms
• Stimulate the release of endorphins
• Increase serotonin levels
• Improve blood flow to the brain
• Promotes a positive body image
Certain exercises increase serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain.
These “feel-good” hormones regulate your mood and behavior. They also reduce the perception of pain and help relieve migraines, headaches, and fibromyalgia. Serotonin has a direct impact on memory, focus, attention, aggression, and sexuality.
Physiotherapists can also recommend exercises that relieve stress and boost cognitive function. In clinical trials, elderly patients who engaged in strength training experienced major improvements in mood and cognition. Other studies have found that exercise improves self-esteem and physical self-worth. It also enhances the body’s ability to cope with stress and fight its harmful effects.
Exercise has been shown to help in addiction treatment. Drug-dependent patients who started exercising reported positive mood states without the use of addictive substances. This was due to the increase in dopamine levels. Physical therapists may also prescribe exercises for post traumatic stress disorders, mood disorders, and mental fatigue.
For instance, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) causes both mental and physical symptoms. Sufferers may experience depression, poor sleep, eating disorders, and severe anxiety. Physiotherapy can help relieve your symptoms and lift your mood. It’s particularly beneficial for people with schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Evidence shows that exercise improves mood and well-being in patients with Parkinson’s disease in as little as six weeks. At the same time, it helps enhance their balance, strength, gait speed, and motor skills.
Most times, interventions include:
• Balance and gait training
• Postural management
• Coordination exercises
• Strength and aerobic exercises
• Deep breathing and relaxation techniques
• Multi-sensorial stimulation
• Cycle ergometry
• Muscle flexibility exercises
• Structured activities
• Expert advice and intervention
The physiotherapist will develop an exercise plan based on your individual needs. They will consider your age, fitness level, and medical history.
Currently, only a small number of psychiatric facilities in Australia employ physical therapists. By comparison, the psychiatric hospitals in Belgium and Norway work extensively with physiotherapists.
The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) is making efforts to promote this discipline as an adjunct treatment for mental diseases. Mental and physical well-being are inseparable. Physiotherapy targets both areas. It not only heals your body but also balances your mood and emotions.
Without a doubt, this discipline is a key component of psychiatric rehabilitation. It can be a valuable aid for those struggling with chronic disorders, which often affect mental health. Compared to medications, physiotherapy is safer and can be used on long term. This makes it suitable for people of all ages.
If you or someone you know suffers from mental illnesses, early intervention can make all the difference.