Physical therapy and your heart

February 12, 2009 —

Physical therapy and your heart

Physical therapy might be best pain treatment for patients with heart disease

DMU physical therapy professor responds to American Heart’s recommendations

The first line of defense against pain and injury may no longer be a pill – especially if you have heart disease. A recent scientific statement by the American Heart Association recommends physicians prescribe physical therapy first for patients at risk for a heart attack or stroke.

“This recommendation comes as no surprise to physical therapists,” said [profile id=”1381″ name=”Shannon Petersen”, assistant professor of physical therapy at Des Moines University.

“Research has repeatedly shown the value of physical therapy for patients with musculoskeletal conditions. We are glad to see the American Heart’s recommendations of physical therapy as a safe and effective alternative to drugs is consistent with this. It only makes sense to see a physical therapist before trying drugs or surgery.”

The scientific statement by the heart experts in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association suggests patients with heart disease or risk of heart disease should not be given a COX-2 inhibitor right away. (A COX-2 inhibitor is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory that targets COX-2, an enzyme that causes inflammation and pain.) This ruling is based on evidence that some drugs in this category may actually increase the risks of heart attack and stroke.

A better choice for pain treatment, according to American Heart’s statement, is physical therapy and exercise, weight loss and heat or cold therapy. If pain or other symptoms cannot be alleviated in this way, drugs may be a necessary step. It is better to be conservative by using physical therapy and other pain relieving methods first to avoid potential risk to the heart that may be associated with certain medications.

“It’s definitely be worthwhile to ask your doctor about trying physical therapy before taking a pain reliever if you know you are at risk for heart problems,” Dr. Petersen said.

Another reason patients with heart disease may benefit from physical therapy is that staying active is key to a healthy heart. Physical therapy is a good way to maintain or improve mobility. With a hands-on exam, diagnosis and treatment, physical therapists can treat many kinds of pain and inflammation in patients of all ages, give fitness advice and assistance and promote overall wellness.

To find out more about the American Heart Association, please visit www.heart.org. Find out about the American Physical Therapy Association or learn about Des Moines University’s doctor of physical therapy program.


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