A quick guide to the different kinds of therapy that can help you feel better
Rehabilitation, the process of rebuilding strength and relearning skills, is critical to regaining health after a serious injury or illness. “The pathway to return to full health goes through some form of rehabilitation,” says Gary L. LeRoy, MD, a member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Here’s a rundown of common types of rehabilitation.
Physical therapy focuses on recovery of strength, mobility and fitness. Who benefits: People with arthritis; joint injuries; spinal pain or injuries; bone fractures; or other types of pain. How it helps: Physical therapy can reduce the need for surgery and prescription drugs. It can be just as effective as surgery for meniscal tears, knee osteoarthritis and rotator cuff tears, for example.
Occupational therapy guides people in relearning daily tasks, such as getting dressed or getting in and out of a car. Who benefits: People of all ages, from children who desire to participate in school to senior adults who want to navigate inside their homes. How it helps: It has been said that a physical therapist will get you where you’re going but an occupational therapist helps you when you get there. Being able to complete daily tasks can improve a person’s quality of life and mental health.
Speech therapy centers on relearning language and speaking, as well as swallowing. Who benefits: Those who have had a stroke or brain injury, or who have Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer or ALS. How it helps: Speech pathologists work with people to strengthen or retrain muscles to overcome speech disorders.
Cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised program that includes exercise training, nutrition advice and relaxation skills to reduce stress. Who benefits: Patients healing after heart problems or surgery. How it helps: Cardiac rehabilitation shows patients how to adopt lifestyle changes that lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, weight and other risk factors that could lead to future heart problems. Patients who participate in cardiac rehabilitation are hospitalized less and experience a 20 to 30 percent reduction in mortality rates compared with those who do not participate.