“Is anybody in the kitchen?” called a voice from the living room.
Lisa got up and walked to the living room, reached out her hand and took the tray with the empty breakfast plate from her blind eighty-three year old father.
Every day that passed he was losing his mobility and reluctant to feel his way from room to room. She glanced at his feet that had been gradually swelling for the past few months because of his inactivity and knew any mention of taking him to the doctor would be met with resistance. What was she to do?
Lisa’s situation is not an uncommon one. Watching an aging parent lose physical mobility is not easy, especially since they are losing their independence. Physiotherapy can help them, or anyone -even small infants who have lost or are experiencing diminished movement in any area of the body.
Physiotherapy is movement therapy. According to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, ‘physiotherapy helps restore movement and function when someone is affected by injury, illness or disability.’ It is not just for persons who have been in accidents –as is the commonly held view.
Often we live very sedentary lives –only moving from the couch to the fridge, or from our desk to our cars and into our beds. We do not move our bodies as often as we need to and our muscles, tissues and bones lose their functions or become stiff and pain ridden from being in one position too long. Whenever the muscles begin to get weary from being immobile, the body will start sending out discomfort and pain signals that it is being strained. To combat the strain on the muscle walk around the room and do some stretches to get the body moving, if this will not cause further injury to the body.
With a physiotherapist, the movement and functions of the body can be restored in a safe environment with someone who is professionally trained to re-educate the body. As simple as it sounds someone limping or hobbling across a room can be due to their lifestyle, and simply retraining the body in movement is all that is needed to be rid of the limp.
“I took dad to a physiotherapist but he is reluctant to move around the room and he won’t try the exercises,” Lisa says.
What Lisa needs is a specialist physiotherapist, who engages in ergonomics. Ergonomics is a discipline of physiotherapy which recognizes that the physical surrounding of the individual impacts on the individual’s physical wellbeing. In the case of Lisa’s dad and many more like him, simply moving the furniture to least obstruct or to aid him can be beneficial to him becoming mobile. Understanding the layout of the room can allow persons who are visually impaired to use the furniture to map the room and the removal of objects that would cause him to trip or fall from off the floor will make him feel safe to venture from his usual spot. It is all about the objects being an aid rather than an impediment to his mobility.
“But what about pain? Isn’t physiotherapy painful?”
In its February 2012 Position Paper, the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) says ‘injury or surgery or an active disease process within the tissues’ may cause pain and the number one remedy for pain which affects 1 in every 5 Australians is physiotherapy but there are not enough physiotherapist. The APA states the role of a physiotherapist is to ‘assist people to live with chronic pain and to work across the lifespan continuum assisting patients with their pain in primary care settings with the aim of diminishing pain, improving quality of life where possible and preventing acute and sub-acute painful conditions developing into chronic pain.’
The young and healthy can benefit from physiotherapy too. Physiotherapy is necessary for all age groups because injury of the musculoskeletal system occurs at all ages. People tend to strain their muscles lifting heavy objects because they do not understand body dynamics. The muscles contract and relax around the joints from which we pivot to push and pull all objects. With physiotherapist individuals can be reeducated on the proper techniques of lifting a pan of water or a dumbbell that there will be no reoccurrence of the injury. Movement education is for everyone.