People coming out of a lifestyle that centered on abusing drugs and alcohol must include physical exercise as an important ingredient in their recovery program. Too often, bodies have been allowed to turn to mush and brain damage, to varying degrees, may have occurred.

What can a person do when their life has been more centered on hoisting a bottle of alcohol or popping pills than in getting plenty of exercises? Where do they start? What options are available?

A session or two, more if needed, with a licensed physical therapist can help answer those questions.

Physical therapy, abbreviated to “PT”, is defined as a health care profession that mediates impairments and promotes mobility, function and quality of life by the physical intervention of a therapist using mechanical force and movement.

Benefits of Physical Therapy

Physical therapy has multitudes of benefits for the recovering addicts. Addiction damages a person’s mental and physical health completely and physical therapy can help to rebuild them.

Improved Brain Chemistry

Normally, our brain releases a pleasure chemical called Dopamine to encourage us to do something for survival such as eating or sex. When dopamine is released we feel good and that makes us want to continue to do what we were doing. Drug intakes triggers dopamine for the addicts and they get dependent on drugs for pleasure. Once recovering the dopamine release goes down and the recovering patients feel depressed. Physical therapy helps to increase the level of dopamine in the brain. It helps normalize the brain function in a person who is going through a withdrawal phase.

Rebuilds Muscle

A primary effect of drug addiction or alcoholism is the atrophy of the muscles. Due to the inactivity for a long time, the muscles get weak and in some cases people lose a lot of weight and muscles get deconditioned.  Balanced diet and regular physical therapy can help rebuild the muscles and get the person fit.

Fights Depression

Exercise produces chemicals called Endorphins that stimulates the body. Drug addicts in the withdrawal phase goes through depression and it is very important to make sure that they are fighting depression. Physical therapy can help the recovering addicts to fight depression and feel better about them. Physical activity works hand-in-hand with mental rehabilitation, since it can be a coping method for recovering addicts who need assistance in overcoming mental obstacles. Therapy and exercise can replace old habits with new healthy ones that will be beneficial for life.

Physical Therapy Programs

Quality physical therapy programs include:

  • Activities to develop motor skills
  • Individualized movement plans
  • Therapeutic exercises geared toward improving strength
  • Specialized treadmills to provide partial weight gain training
  • Information and training for families of the disabled
  • Instruction in skills for lifelong fitness and participation in play and recreation

The staff at quality physical therapy programs should be licensed professionals with advanced education and experience. The clinical coordinators, senior therapists, and staff therapists should have training in Neuro-developmental Treatment. The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialities certifies physical therapists nationally, and the therapists should be up-to-date on their continuing education requirements.

In addition to training and education, a positive self-image internalized dedication and a willingness to look from the patient’s point a view is a must for a physical therapist. Dr. Lev Kalika of New York Dynamic Neuromuscular Rehabilitation says, “The last thing I want to be is another player in my patient’s nightmares.”

Once a person’s physical therapist has measured and evaluated their abilities, a treatment plan is developed during a meeting between the patient and therapist. The areas included in the treatment plan might focus on one or more of these areas:

  • Speed
  • Mobility
  • Balance
  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Movement
  • Coordination
  • Cardiovascular endurance

History of Physical Therapy

Hippocrates is believed to have been the earliest practitioner of physical therapy. In this role, he advocated massage, manual therapy, and hydrotherapy for people in 460BC.

When the field of orthopedics was developed in the 1700s, machines like the Gymnasticon were developed to treat patients by systematic exercise of the joints. The earliest documented origins of actual physical therapy date to Per Henrik Ling, “Father of Swedish Gymnastics,” who established the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics in 1813.

Modern physical therapy came about at the end of the 1800s. American orthopedic surgeons began employment women trained in physical education and remedial exercise. The devised treatments were promoted during the Polio outbreak of 1916.

Throughout World War I, women were selected to work with injured soldiers and the field of physical therapy became institutionalized. Early therapists were called, “reconstruction aides” when the first school of physical therapy was established at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

Today most substance abuse treatment programs include physical therapy. Using this article as a guide, individuals who do not attend outpatient treatment can still get fit physically and stay that way.