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How Physical Therapy Helps Treat Depression

If you suffer from depression, then your primary care physician may have referred you to a mental health specialist for cognitive behavioral therapy and possibly prescribed antidepressant medications. While seeking treatment from a mental health professional is highly recommended if you are struggling with depression or anxiety, other treatments, such as physical therapy, may prove beneficial. Here are some ways physical therapy may help alleviate your depression.

Neurotransmitter Release

Physical therapists often incorporate therapeutic massage into their pain relief treatment plans. Massage helps increase circulation to injured or painful areas of the body to ease discomfort and promote healing. Another benefit of therapeutic massage is that during the procedure, your brain may release certain pain-reducing neurotransmitters, such as endorphins. Also known as "feel good" or "happy" hormones, endorphins can help relieve depression that is common in those suffering from chronic pain.

Because massage helps your brain release endorphins, you may be more likely to complete your entire physical therapy program. Some people suffering from severe pain coupled with depression may drop out of their programs before finishing them. This can further delay the healing process and may lead to an increase in pain, decrease in mobility, an increase in depression and anxiety, and reduced range-of-motion.

Physical Exercise Benefits

During your therapy sessions, you will perform physical exercises tailored to your individual needs. Exercise not only helps promote healing, but it can also help treat depression associated with chronic pain. Many physical therapists are trained to recognize signs of depression in the patients they treat. If they suspect that a patient is depressed, they may intervene by incorporating additional exercise interventions or by suggesting that the patient seek mental health treatments.

Physical therapy can also help those in pain enjoy a better quality of sleep, which is often very elusive in chronic pain suffers. It is thought that people who do not get enough restorative sleep may be at a higher risk for depression and anxiety. The combination of both physical exercise and neurotransmitter release helps induce healthy sleep patterns to improve the symptoms of depression. Better quality sleep will also help you perform your therapy exercises better.

If your primary care physician recommends a physical therapy program, talk to them about how it may benefit both your pain and depression. In addition, do not be discouraged if you suffer from mobility problems that prevent you from visiting a physical therapy clinic. If you are unable to venture out of your home to participate in an outpatient physical therapy program, your doctor can recommend a physical therapist who offers in-home therapy services to home-bound individuals. Contact a physical therapy service for more information.