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Physical Therapy for the Elderly

Treatment

Treatment must be tailored to the physical and functional problems identified during the assessment. Muscle weakness and lack of strength can be treated with resistance exercise. An exercise technique known as high-intensity resistance training (HIRT) can be used in different clinical settings, from nursing homes to community programs. Research shows that high-intensity resistance training is safe, well tolerated, and can increase muscle strength by as much as 113 percent. Even people who are very weak are able to tolerate and benefit from this form of exercise.

Pain control is essential to achieve optimal function and quality of life. Mechanical aspects of pain can be helped with sketching, the use of an aid or orthotic, or activity modification to achieve joint protection. Exercise can remediate pain, as is the case in osteoarthritis. Pain associated with inflammation or swelling can be treated with the use of modalities such as ice, heat, transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS), ultrasound, or acupuncture. Medications can be used adjunctively when necessary.

Gait and balance training is an integral part of treatment. Gait training is aimed at improving postural alignment, gait pattern, speed, safety, and endurance. A walking aid, such as a cane or walker, an orthotic, or appropriate footwear may be recommended. To help with stability, balance responses are practiced to promote appropriate reactions. Weight-shifting exercises and functional activities, such as reaching, can be helpful.

Aerobic conditioning can improve cardiovascular function and endurance and is an especially important component of a cardiac rehabilitation program.

These interventions often improve an individual's physical condition and restore function. Sometimes, physical problems cannot be entirely alleviated, but usually therapy can help an individual adapt to disabilities, allowing for increased independence and improved safety.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 3Physical Therapy for the Elderly - Assessment, Treatment, Conclusion - Interdisciplinary approach