Physical Therapy Can Help you get “Heart Healthy”

February is American Heart Health Month! In the United States someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds. Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease and kills nearly 380,000 people each year. That comes down to someone dying from a heart disease-related event every 60 seconds according to the Heart Foundation.

What does this have to do with physical therapy?

There are a lot of reasons to not be able to exercise and a few of those we can help with!

Gait/balance issues, pain in joints or the back, and being overweight are the most common reasons patients have a difficult time getting exercise to be more “heart healthy”. As physical therapists, we see many patients with these issues and those patients feel they can’t exercise for fear of falling, being in too much pain, and not being able to control their diet.

If you are suffering from poor balance and gait with a fear of falling, we can help! We see many patients in the clinic who drastically improve balance by training with gentle strengthening, balance and obstacle course practice. Balance is often compromised when our neurological system does not connect with the muscular system well. This could be caused from a previous stroke, injury, neuropathies, falling, or neurological disease. We have special equipment to improve the “proprioception” of the body which simply means where the body is in space. By using swiss balls, uneven ground, small rebounder, hurdles, cones, and resistance bands we can put together a program to help get you better balance. This will help transition you to a program to be able to walk or use a stationary bike. Any form of this exercise will help keep you healthier and moving!
Pain in the joints and back is the most common reason people don’t exercise. We see patients often who state “I can’t lose weight or exercise due to the pain in my knees (or insert any body part that hurts)!” However, after a month or two of therapy, these patients walk out ready to continue with an exercise program with less pain or pain free. These patients then tell us how they wished they would have come sooner!

Pain will occur in the body if there is an imbalance between the muscles, arthritis, or alignment issues. The imbalance in alignment or muscles causes stress on joints, increased tension of the nerves, decreased circulation, and postural deformity. During physical therapy, your therapist will address any and all of the imbalances you may have by performing manual techniques, modalities, strengthening and stretching exercises, and posture education. Manual techniques may include joint mobilization, soft tissue massage, Astym®, dry needling, and muscle energy to correct alignment issues. Exercises will include specific strengthening and stretching to areas that are weak and tight. And modalities may be hot pack, cold pack, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound. Your therapist will help walk you along a plan of care that works well with what your body needs in order to get you pain free and able to walk or begin an exercise program for keeping your heart healthy!

Being overweight can also become a challenge with exercising. Typically starting with a good diet, and a heart healthy diet, will help lose the weight. When exercising, start out slow! Begin by walking 5 minutes 3x/day and work up each week 5 minutes until you reach 30 minutes. The more you move, the more you can quick start your metabolism to burn fat and calories and the more you get your blood flowing. If your joints bother you too much to walk then riding a stationary recumbent bike is helpful to take weight off your joints. Physical therapists can help you get on a program to start cardio exercise and give you a few other exercises to tone and strengthen.

There really is no excuse to not be able to get your heart healthy again! If you are suffering from gait issues, pain, or overweight and need help getting to a good exercise routine we would be happy to help! We are here to support heart health and advocate for more exercise!

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