Many assume that loss of muscle strength and function – debility – is an unavoidable part of the aging process. The reality is that adults can often remain physically active throughout their lives, and there is help for older adults who need to regain strength and improve their ability to perform everyday activities.
Physical rehabilitation, including strength and conditioning and cardiovascular and balance therapy, is very effective in improving physical ability.
When diagnosing debility, physical therapists ask questions: What was your prior activity level? What are you capable of doing now? Do you experience shortness of breath walking or performing daily activities?
“A physical therapist will measure a patient’s level of endurance to set appropriate goals,” says Tricia Butynskyi, MSPT, DPT, site manager at Good Shepherd Physical Therapy-Macungie. “For example, instead of getting the patient just to go up and down the stairs again, the goal is for the patient to be able to do so step-over-step and without being out of breath.
Treatment is based on how active the patient currently is and what needs to be done to get him or her back to the previous way of life.”
Treadmills, stationary bicycles, recumbent steppers and elliptical machines are all effective methods of therapy. Aquatic therapy also helps alleviate stress on the knees, hips and ankles, while enhancing the patient’s strength and fitness level. Active home exercise, with a therapist monitoring progress, also is important.