While exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle and preventive for chronic illnesses, it can also be therapeutic. Exercise can help a person heal, regain lost physical functions, and strengthen current body functions.
Therapeutic exercise can help those with osteoarthritis, breathing problems, metabolic disorders, vascular disorders, limited range of motion, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.
In many cases when a physician determines that exercise is not only beneficial, but necessary to a person’s health and well-being, they will give an exercise prescription.
The benefits of regular exercise are countless, prescribed or not, but when it is given under the guidance of an exercise professional it is tailored specifically to a person and lowers the risk of an exercise injury.
Therapeutic Exercise & Benefits
Bielecki and Tadi (2021) describe therapeutic exercise as “movements prescribed to correct impairments, restore muscular and skeletal function and/or maintain a state of well-being.”
Examples of therapeutic exercise include strength training, endurance training, targeted muscle strengthening, breathing exercises, range of motion exercises, and many more.
The benefits of therapeutic exercise are many and go beyond the musculoskeletal system:
Joint Function: Stronger muscles help support joints and the weight of the body. This is particularly helpful to individuals with joint problems like osteoarthritis whose deterioration of the cartilage at the end of bones leads to excessive rubbing and pain.
Exercise also leads to more synovial fluid, the fluid that lubricates joints, entering the space between movable joints to reduce friction during movement.
Weakened and lax soft tissues can also be a source of chronic pain and dysfunction in joints which can limit movement. Strengthening supporting muscles through therapeutic exercise to better support these joints can help take some extra stress off and even improve pain symptoms.
This is especially true when therapeutic exercise is coupled with other treatments, like prolotherapy, which can help regenerate injured soft tissues, stabilize joints, and treat pain symptoms.
Muscle Strength: Therapeutic exercise can help strengthen muscles that were once weakened by an injury, disease, or older age.
Strong muscles improve a person’s ability to perform everyday activities, perform movements that were once compromised and remain independent at an older age. Strong muscles also help protect the skeleton and keep bones strong and healthy.
Lung Function: Therapeutic exercise can also strengthen respiratory muscles and improve lung capacity. Exercises that recruit respiratory muscles are also working out those muscles, making them stronger and making breathing easier.
The American Lung Association mentions that exercise makes the body more effective at getting oxygen to the blood and elsewhere in the body (Exercise and Lung Health, n.d.). This makes exercise fundamental to lung and heart health, especially therapeutic exercise.
Metabolism: Exercise is known to improve insulin sensitivity thereby affecting sugar uptake by cells and its subsequent use, regulating blood sugar levels.
Skeletal muscle also consumes a significant amount of fatty acids to fuel mechanical function which helps regulate blood lipid levels and benefits cardiovascular health.
Since skeletal muscle requires a lot of energy for locomotion, it burns more calories and helps prevent excess weight gain.
Chronic Pain: Exercise helps release endorphins in the body, which are the body’s natural pain killers. Endocannabinoids are also released which help calm the person down.
In cases in which chronic pain involves inflammation and the accumulation of fluid, exercise can help drain excess fluid in different parts of the body and bring it back into circulation.
Sometimes getting rid of this excess fluid which is exerting pressure on receptor endings can help with the pain.
At Santa Cruz CORE, we offer Sports ChiroTherapy, which involves assessing functional movement, and prescribing therapeutic exercises. We also offer prolotherapy which can help treat joint dysfunction and pain associated with weak and lax ligaments.
- Bielecki JE, Tadi P. Therapeutic Exercise. [Updated 2021 Sep 29]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK555914/
- Exercise and Lung Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/wellness/exercise-and-lung-health