Given the multiple networks of communication between the brain and the body system, the mind and body are connected. In fact, one’s mental health can deteriorate following a major medical event, for instance a serious fall, going through surgery, or an unexpected medical event. Such events can be accompanied with severe worrying and stress and the person might find himself questioning why this happened to him. In the long run, this can lead to depression and other mental health issues which affect the healing process. Therefore, for successful recovery, it is advisable to treat both mind and body during the time of healing. Physical therapy is considered an effective method of treating mental health following a medical event. The following are some mental health benefits of physical therapy:
Encourages us not to give up
One of the role of physical therapists is to use positive reinforcement for the patient to keep on working and improving. When used appropriately, this can change the patient’s life for the better.
As pointed out earlier, feelings of pain and stress can have a negative effect on one’s state of mind. Several studies show that the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which affects one’s mood, increases with physical activity.
The interruption of normal abilities resulting from a physical injury is very likely to damage one’s self-esteem. This is especially true when that person needs to cope and accept the help that they need if they are unable to do everyday activities. In such situations, the focus needs to shift from what can’t be done to what can be done to improve one’s self-esteem. Therefore, one can consider participating in simple physical exercises with the aim of feeling a sense of accomplishment and accept their new limitations. Moreover, physical activity is known to release endorphins, chemicals that trigger a positive feeling in the body. These also decrease the perception of pain by interacting with the receptors in the brain.
The better we sleep, the better our mental health. A good sleep helps our mind rest and recharge and, during sleep, our brain sorts out new information, emotions, and memories. Lack of sleep leads to higher levels of stress and anxiety as the brain wouldn’t have enough time to recharge. Physical exercise has also been found to help the body fall asleep more quickly and provide a deeper and better quality sleep, resulting in a better outlook on life.
Helps prevent recurrence of injury
Physical therapy does not just provide instant pain relief as it focuses on long-term management.
Provides social support
Working with a physical therapist can be very reassuring as it reduces the feelings of isolation. A therapist offers encouragement and information about the healing process. One can set a physical therapy goal and helps you reach it to regain a sense of control which, in turn, reduces anxiety. Working on your balance and strength also helps increase confidence.
If you feel that the above is not enough, do not hesitate to seek therapy, in particular Acceptance-Based Behavioural Therapy as this addresses conditions commonly treated by physical therapists such as pain, stress, and hypertension.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Johanna Cutajar is a Master in Counselling graduate from the University of Malta. She works with children and adolescents as a counsellor within the education sector on a variety of issues including relationship issues, trauma, bereavement, transitions, and general mental health.
Buchenot, J. (2020). Physical therapy’s role in total mind-body healing. Retrieved from https://www.whitehallofdeerfield.com/blog/physical-therapys-role-in-total-mind-body-healing/#:~:text=Studies%20have%20shown%20that%20physical,help%20prevent%20further%20mental%20distress.