• 20 July, 2023

Importance of Physical Therapy in Managing Chronic Diseases

Chronic diseases have become increasingly prevalent in modern society and have a significant impact on individuals' quality of life.However, there is growing evidence that physical therapy can play a crucial role in managing these conditions effectively. Physical therapists, also known as PTs, are experts in identifying, diagnosing, and treating movement problems. They help people maintain or restore as much function as possible, which is vital for overall health, wellness, and independence. In this article, we will explore the importance of physical therapy in managing chronic diseases, including its role in preventing and improving conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), cancer survivorship, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (CVD).


The Impact of Physical Activity on Chronic Diseases


Regular physical activity is widely recognized as a key factor in promoting health, preventing chronic diseases, and managing their symptoms. Physical therapists are instrumental in helping individuals overcome barriers to physical activity and creating personalized treatment plans that address their specific needs, challenges, and goals. By working together with patients, physical therapists can develop strategies that maximize their movement potential, manage pain, and enhance overall well-being.


According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), physical therapists can provide valuable guidance and support to individuals with chronic diseases, including those with conditions like RA, cancer, diabetes, and CVD. Let's explore how physical therapy can make a significant difference in each of these areas.


Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)


RA is an autoimmune disease that primarily affects the joints, causing pain, inflammation, and stiffness. Physical therapy plays a crucial role in managing RA by improving joint mobility, reducing pain, and enhancing overall function. Physical therapists design personalized exercise programs that focus on strengthening muscles, improving flexibility, and maintaining joint integrity. These exercises can help individuals with RA manage their symptoms, maintain a good range of motion, and preserve their independence.




Physical therapy plays a crucial role in managing diabetes by promoting physical activity, improving cardiovascular fitness, and controlling blood glucose levels. Regular exercise has been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity, improve glycemic control, and reduce the risk of complications associated with diabetes. Physical therapists work with individuals with diabetes to develop safe and effective exercise programs tailored to their specific needs and abilities. By providing guidance on proper techniques, monitoring progress, and addressing potential barriers, physical therapists help individuals with diabetes achieve their health goals and lead active, fulfilling lives.


Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)


CVD encompasses a range of conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels, including coronary artery disease, heart failure, and stroke. Physical therapy plays a vital role in managing CVD by improving cardiovascular fitness, reducing the risk of complications, and enhancing overall well-being. Physical therapists design exercise programs that focus on aerobic conditioning, strength training, and flexibility exercises, tailored to the individual's needs and medical history. Through regular monitoring, education, and support, physical therapists help individuals with CVD safely and effectively manage their condition, improve their quality of life, and reduce the risk of future cardiac events.


The Benefits of Physical Therapy in Managing Chronic Diseases


Research has consistently demonstrated the numerous benefits of physical therapy in managing chronic diseases. Some of the key findings from studies and systematic reviews include:


  • Improvement in exercise capacity and muscle strength in patients with various chronic diseases, without detrimental effects on disease progression.

  • Reduction in pain symptoms, such as in osteoarthritis, leading to improved quality of life.

  • Decreased all-cause mortality in patients with coronary heart disease and heart failure who engage in exercise therapy.

  • Beneficial effects on all components of metabolic syndrome and significant benefits for patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.


It is important to note that the quality of the individual studies and trials is crucial in evaluating the effectiveness of exercise therapy. Well-designed randomized controlled trials (RCTs) provide the most reliable evidence for the benefits of physical therapy in managing chronic diseases. However, it is essential to consider the limitations of these trials, such as the inability to blind participants and the potential lack of generalizability to the broader population.


While exercise therapy has shown promising results in improving physical function and managing chronic diseases, it is important to remember that it is not a standalone treatment. Other modifiable risk factors, such as diet and smoking, also play a significant role in disease management. Additionally, exercise therapy should be tailored to each individual's specific needs, taking into account their baseline fitness level, disease stage, and treatment goals. Physical therapists work closely with patients to develop comprehensive treatment plans that address all aspects of their condition and promote long-term adherence to exercise programs.


Physical therapy plays a crucial role in managing chronic diseases and improving overall health and well-being. By designing personalized treatment plans, addressing barriers to physical activity, and providing education and support, physical therapists empower individuals to take an active role in their care. Through exercise therapy, physical therapists help individuals with chronic diseases improve their physical function, manage pain, and enhance their quality of life. As the evidence continues to accumulate, it is clear that physical therapy is a valuable tool in the management of chronic diseases, providing individuals with the necessary tools to maximize their movement potential and achieve better health outcomes.


To learn more about the benefits of physical therapy in managing chronic diseases, visit the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) website. Take the first step towards a healthier, more active life today.