Commonly Asked Questions On Physiotherapy For Older Adults

Learn how physiotherapy can benefit older adults so they can achieve independence and mobility as they age gracefully into their twilight years.

by Deborah Yaw

What is physiotherapy?

Think of your physiotherapist as a mechanic, but for the human body. They are professionals who use natural physical approaches to maintain and restore a person’s well-being so that they get to keep up with optimum performance and enjoy their chosen sport, work, or everyday activities.

Physiotherapists undergo years of formal tertiary education where they are able to learn different physical approaches with an in-depth study of the human body, particularly the muscle and joint system. Physiotherapists study a wide range from anatomy, neuro-anatomy, physiology, psychology, medical conditions, musculoskeletal conditions to prescribing exercises and electrotherapy.

This science-based methodology involves discovering better solutions to treat an individual’s body and restoring aching, stiff and dysfunctional muscles, and joints back to health.

According to the World Confederation for Physical Therapy in 2019, there are 2326 physiotherapists in Malaysia, and 69% of physical therapists are females.

How would physiotherapy help older adults?

There is a common misconception that physiotherapy is only needed when individuals or athletes come face-to-face with sports injuries or accidents. In reality, seniors can benefit from physiotherapy as a prevention measure as it focuses on injury prevention and mobility improvement.

As we age, we may experience a range of conditions such as arthritis, back pain, joint pain, muscle stiffness, ligament damage, inflammation, and restricted mobility. There are many ways these issues related to ageing can be prevented, treated, or managed by physiotherapy as part of a comprehensive wellness regime. We take you through the WHYs with these ten benefits of physiotherapy for older adults:

1.Treating pain

Ever experience neck, back and joint pain before? These are often because of tight or weak muscles, limited blood flow, and inactivity. Physiotherapy helps with increasing blood flow, improving flexibility and core strength, and empowering seniors with mobility by making sure individuals are actively and intentionally moving.

2. Lower exercise risk

Even though exercise is important for people of all walks of life, it can also pose a risk, especially for older adults if they have medical conditions or a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and other common health issues or past injuries. With physiotherapy, individuals are able to exercise cautiously under the directive of professionals and therefore, reduce prolonged risk of exercise-related injuries.

3. Build strength and stability

Slips and falls can happen anytime. Statistics show that falls in older adults are often associated with significant morbidity, and in one research, one-fourth of seniors who experience falls sustain a hip fracture and pass away within the next six months. Physiotherapy helps older adults build up their strength and stability, and return individuals to baseline function, to defeat their fear of falling or slipping.

4. Social benefits

Physiotherapy involves physical interactivity and helps create a healthy social experience for both the individual and physiotherapist. Individuals are able to communicate their health goals to their dedicated physiotherapist so that they can achieve one milestone to the next with ease.

5. Non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical

Undertaking surgery can increase in risk as a person ages — physiotherapy is an alternative that is non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical. With a preventive mindset to work on building strength and flexibility for independent mobility, individuals do not have to worry about treating injuries as they age down the line.

There are times where pain medication can sometimes interfere with other medications taken for chronic illnesses. At that stage, individuals are able to have the freedom to take lesser medication, which is an important consideration when it comes to physical and mental health and wellness.

6. Pre and post-surgery

What if surgery is not an option? Fret not, as there are still benefits to pre-and post-surgery physiotherapy. Simple exercises of any kind can protect and enhance an individual’s cardiovascular capacity and circulation and help build strength before surgery. Post-surgery physiotherapy helps with a faster recovery time and a focused plan ensures individuals exercise the right muscles for recovery.

7. Mental health benefits

Ageing comes with a lot of adjustments whether it be retirement, lifestyle changes or even dealing with family dynamics — this is why maintaining mental health is just as important as physical health. Exercise is proven to alleviate anxiety and depression by releasing endorphins.

8. Independence

With all the benefits we’ve seen so far, it all adds up to a vital component of any individual’s life: the ability to stay independent. Maintaining independence is key to a senior’s happiness, dignity, and overall quality of life. Effective physiotherapy will keep you out of a wheelchair, and even behind the wheel longer.

It can make a world of a difference between living on your own, or requiring in-house care, or living in a retirement home.

9. Targeting Specific Issues

Besides the common back pain or neck pain, physiotherapy is specialised to address old sports injuries that may not have fully healed in the past, arthritis, and osteoporosis.

Physiotherapy is also beneficial for those with breathing problems such as asthma, issues related to diabetes, and degenerative conditions such as MS and Parkinson’s. It can also help overcome incontinence by helping to strengthen the muscles around the pelvis floor. Incontinence affects individuals at different stages of their life and is not commonly talked about because of the stigma and embarrassment surrounding it.

10. Specially Made Foot Orthotics

As we age, our feet require extra care. This is especially true if you are diabetic. When you visit a physiotherapist, they can give you a prescription for custom-made foot orthotics. These are like insoles except they are customised to the exact dimensions of your feet, in order to evenly distribute your body weight and relieve pressure.

What or how should I prepare before my first physiotherapy session?

Here are some things to keep in mind to get the most out of your first physiotherapy session:

Overcommunicate. Start with making a list of medication or supplements that you are currently taking, and let your physiotherapist know if you had surgery or any old injury in the past.

Family or friends. Get a close relative or friend to be there with you to ask any questions you might have missed out on and even help with remembering instructions or health goals from the physiotherapist.

Be Comfortable. Wear your most comfortable clothes so that physiotherapists are able to gauge the part of your body that is hurting more accurately or is associated with your symptoms.

What is the difference between physiotherapy and occupational therapy?

Physiotherapy focuses on treating you and your loved one’s physical impairment (body movement and function). Physiotherapists are trained extensively in body mechanics and use treatment techniques that are designed to reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. For someone recovering from a stroke, a physiotherapist might develop exercises to strengthen the muscles for walking, standing, and other movements.

Occupational therapy focuses on holistic wellness as well as finer motor and cognitive skills. The goal is to help you and your loved one perform daily activities and meaningful interactions with the maximum independence possible. The treatment plan may include physical exercise, therapeutic adaptations as well as home modifications. For someone recovering from a stroke, our occupational therapist might develop treatments to help with the management of daily activities like eating, showering, and getting dressed.

How long will a physiotherapy session be?

Depending on the physiotherapist and the person receiving care, a physiotherapy session with a Homage Care Pro would usually be about an hour.

No one physio session is the same, just as how no two people are the same. Every session is curated to the individual’s needs and the ability for better recovery and holistic care.

The first session can be longer than usual in order to account for the time needed to understand and note down an individual’s medical history.

Advantages of Care At Home With Homage

Homage provides in-home physiotherapy sessions for individuals in a familiar and comfortable space — their very own home. Older adults do not have to prepare to travel out to physio appointments, therefore, providing a hassle-free experience where they are able to focus on their exercises with ease.

Another good advantage of getting in-home care is to encourage mobility in seniors who are otherwise bed-bound or have restricted adaptability after a surgery or injury and would need to use a wheelchair or crutches.

Homage allows the flexibility to arrange care from 1 hour onwards, whether weekdays or weekends, where seniors are well taken care of by our skilled and certified Malaysian-only Care Pros.

Got more questions about our physiotherapy care? Chat with our Care Advisor at 016-2992188 or fill in your details below for a free consultation on how we can provide care and assistance.

  1. Fuller, G. F. (2000). Falls in the elderly. American family physician61(7), 2159.

About the Writer
Deborah Yaw
Deborah believes that everyone has a story worth telling. Has a serious appreciation for good movies, music and spicy food.
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