If you’re recovering from an injury or dealing with a chronic pain condition, one of the first things to decline is mobility. Mobility challenges can range in severity. You may have trouble gripping a jar lid, pulling a sweater over your head, or getting out of a chair for example.
Treating your injury or illness may resolve your mobility issues, but sometimes symptoms can continue after healing is complete. And if you have an incurable chronic condition, you may have limited mobility for life.
In any case, physical therapy can help restore and maximize your mobility. Dinash Yanamadula, MD, provides expert physical therapy services at Princeton Pain & Spine Institute in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. He can address your mobility issues by strengthening your musculoskeletal structure, reducing inflammation, stabilizing your joints, and relieving pain.
You might consider yourself mobile if you can stand and walk, but functional mobility has a more specific definition.
The Journal of Parkinson’s Disease defines functional mobility as “a person’s physiological ability to move independently and safely in a variety of environments in order to accomplish functional activities or tasks and to participate in the activities of daily living, at home, work and in the community.”
In short, this means that any limitation, great or small, that interferes with your ability to do simple tasks, such as write a letter or scoot to the edge of your bed, constitutes a mobility problem.
It’s easy to think that a minor mobility issue is merely an inconvenience, but it can have significant implications for your health.
If pain prevents you from moving freely, this can instinctively cause you to stop moving that body part. And this inactivity can cause that body part to atrophy and weaken, which could put you at risk for further injury.
Furthermore, pain can beget pain. For example, if you think about moving a painful part of your body, your body may produce stress hormones — cortisol — in anticipation. This, in turn, may exacerbate your pain, which might trigger a cyclical condition that gets progressively worse.
Stress could also make your heart beat faster, make your muscles tighten, and make your immune system work overtime, all of which could increase your pain and decrease your mobility. Pain and immobility are also linked with the onset of depression, and depression can cause an increase in pain and a decrease in mobility.
Whether you’re rehabilitating from surgery or an acute injury, or you’re managing a chronic illness, physical therapy can complement your treatment in three ways.
Applying heat and cold, engaging in exercises and stretches, and engaging your cardiovascular system, can help your blood flow improve. And as your circulation improves, this can help your tissues receive more oxygen and nutrients, which are essential for healing and renewal.
Engaging in these activities can also help reduce inflammation, and as the swelling subsides, your pain should decline as well. And this, in turn, should help you regain more range of motion.
Weak joints and muscles can cause instability and immobility. Whether your joints are stiff and painful from arthritis or loose and unstable from an injury, both conditions might limit your ability to move and function.
Physical therapy targets specific joints to help you fortify the support system around them, so you can reach, lift, bend, and squat with confidence.
Your body parts are designed to work in harmony with one another, so if you favor one part in an attempt to avoid pain in another, you put yourself at risk for injury. For example, if your pain emanates from your back, it may radiate down your legs and cause you to change your gait and lose your balance.
Physical therapy can help you retrain your body and brain to use the proper posture and gait, so you can regain your balance and avoid falls and further injury.
If you struggle to perform simple tasks, such as reaching for something on an upper shelf or getting in and out of your car, physical therapy can help.
And if you can’t move your body out of bed or make it to the next room without stumbling, physical therapy can also help.
To learn more about physical therapy and to see if it can help you, book an appointment online or over the phone with Princeton Pain & Spine Institute today.