Chronic mobility disorders can be anything from stiffness in a specific joint that causes a mild gait deviation to something larger and more impactful such as decreased ability to get around within a person’s environment or the community. Loss of mobility at any age can have profound social, psychological, and physical consequences. In addition, mobility can be an important predictor of quality of life. So, it is not difficult to see the importance of addressing the loss of mobility as soon as possible.
Some of the most common factors that lead to mobility disorders include older age, low physical activity, low strength and balance, obesity, chronic disease, and pain. Who among us does not either have one of these issues or have someone close to us who is dealing with one of these problems? The onset can be sudden such as from an injury or accident, or it can be gradual such as with aging or inactivity. The signs and symptoms may include gait deviations, tripping, stumbling, difficulty changing positions or getting up, avoidance of activities that are difficult, social isolation, and use of compensatory movements, among others. Some of these would be obvious, but others may be less quickly red-flagged especially if they occur slowly over time. So, it is important to be cognizant of and on the lookout for the warning signs for ourselves and those close to us.
How can a person tell that he or she needs further help to address these issues? A person should seek assistance for loss of mobility as soon as possible once symptoms are present and especially when symptoms begin to affect daily life or overall health and well-being as this may likely impact the success of outcomes. However, it is never too late to seek assistance.
The good news is that physical therapists can help! Physical therapists work with people to determine cause of loss of mobility, address underlying impairments, provide education, and help people to restore function, compensate for deficits, and adapt environments. Physical therapists can help to reduce or eliminate pain, strengthen muscles, increase range of motion, improve balance, provide instruction for home exercise programs, and much much more. Physical therapists are highly trained and provide individualized treatments based on a person’s needs.
Leah Emerson PT, DPT