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Role of Physiotherapy in the Management of Chronic Illnesses

Published on Sep 08, 2022 and last reviewed on Feb 03, 2023   -  6 min read


Physical activity is recommended for the treatment of chronic diseases. Read below to know the role of physiotherapy in the management of chronic illnesses.

What Is a Chronic Illness?

Chronic disease is a sickness or ailment that lasts at least three months and may worsen over time. Chronic diseases are more common in older people and can usually be managed but not cured. The most prevalent chronic diseases are cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and arthritis.

What Are the Risk Factors for Chronic Illness?

Common risk factors that may lead to a chronic disease diagnosis include:

What Are the Characteristics of Chronic Disease?

The following are the characteristics of chronic illnesses:

  • Many risk factors.

  • Complex causes.

  • Long latency periods are the time between the onset of the illness and feeling its effects.

  • Some prolong over time and require intensive management, such as diabetes.

  • A long illness.

  • Functional impairment or disability.

  • Many chronic illnesses persist throughout a person’s life, such as arthritis.

  • Some do not fix themselves and are not cured completely.

  • Some can immediately require attention and are life-threatening, such as heart disease and stroke.

What Are the Common Chronic Diseases?

While many illnesses can be considered chronic, major chronic conditions that are a significant burden in terms of morbidity, mortality, and healthcare are:

  • Asthma.

  • Obesity.

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

  • Chronic kidney disease.

  • Cardiovascular disease.

  • Stroke.

  • Lung cancer.

  • Colorectal cancer.

  • Depression.

  • Type 2 diabetes.

  • Arthritis.

  • Osteoporosis.

  • Oral disease.

What Are the Benefits of Physical Therapy for People With Chronic Diseases?

Patients sometimes do not know where to turn for help after being diagnosed with a chronic ailment. For ongoing treatment and pain control, doctors and nurses are crucial. Physical therapists may not be able to diagnose your disease, but they can surely help you manage it over time. Lifestyle changes are unavoidable when you have a chronic disease or condition. Some people experience rapid changes, while others see gradual changes over time. Working with a physical therapy team, regardless of the situation, is a terrific approach to developing healthy routines and gaining strength and stamina for increased movement and activity levels.

How Do Physiotherapists Play an Important Role in the Management of Chronic Diseases?

General practitioners play the most well-known role in the management of chronic diseases, and they are critical in the care of people who have or are at risk of developing them. Other health professionals, on the other hand, are less commonly acknowledged as having a substantial role to play in managing chronic disease. Physiotherapists are the main contact practitioners with the knowledge and skills to manage the care of clients at all phases of chronic illness progression.

Their important roles include:

  • Prescribe and administer therapeutic exercise on an individual or group basis, as well as lead exercise and education sessions for patients with chronic conditions who have been diagnosed.

  • Exercise prescription and cardiopulmonary rehabilitation treat persons with chronic lung disorders, such as asthma.

  • Exercise therapy is prescribed to improve glucose control in patients who have diabetes or are at risk of developing it.

  • Cardiac rehabilitation programs for those suffering from a variety of cardiac conditions.

  • Interventions, such as therapeutic exercise, are provided to lower the risk of osteoporotic fracture.

  • Health promotion and education can take place in a variety of settings, from one-on-one consultations to formal group education sessions, such as disease-specific self-management classes and education on lifestyle changes like smoking cessation, alcohol reduction, pain management, and fatigue management.

What Are the Beneficial Exercises for Those With Chronic Diseases?

The Beneficial exercises for those with chronic diseases include:

Aerobic Exercises-

These types of exercises benefit a variety of body parts at the same time. Physical therapists recommend aerobic exercise since it raises your heart rate and breathing rate at the same time. Each minute counts in these types of exercises.

This means that it is beneficial even if you merely exercise for a short time. Following a diagnosis, aerobic and cardiac activities can often prevent underlying issues from worsening symptoms or conditions in the future.

Aerobic activities include the following:

  • Walking, jogging, and running.

  • Cycling.

  • Swimming.

  • Hiking.

  • Team or individual sports that involve running.

  • Dancing.

  • Household chores like yard work.

Strength Training Exercises-

When most people think of strength training, they picture someone lifting big weights to gain bulky muscles. This is not usually the intended result, nor the only advantage of strength exercise. Strength training exercises improve muscle and physical strength, endurance, and joint stability for many people. This can help reduce the modest but consistent decreases in muscular strength and overall function that many chronic illnesses cause.

People with chronic conditions often feel weak, but strength training is an excellent approach to overcome this. This is also a good approach to gradually improve capabilities over time, which entails changing routines and workouts as you advance or, in certain situations, as the sickness progresses. More focus on strength training will make you stronger. The goal is to enhance balance, recover rapidly after exercise, and lower injury risk over time. The following are some strength-training activities that can help you achieve this:

  • Full body or muscle-specific exercises using free weights or machines.

  • Squats.

  • Crunches.

  • Medicine or stability balls.

  • Calisthenics.

Flexibility Exercises-

It is not just about being loose when you are flexible; it is also about becoming more stable. Stretching properly before and after exercise lowers the risk of secondary injuries such as muscular sprains, strains, and joint problems.

Stretching affects all major muscle groups, making it beneficial to a wide range of people. The function of the body improves as the range of motion is increased. As a result, stability and balance are improved, and the chance of a fall or general imbalance is reduced.

The following are some stretching exercises that can help people with chronic diseases:

  • Upper and lower body stretching routines.

  • Yoga.

  • Tai chi.

  • Arm and leg raise.

Reaching out to someone like a physical therapist is especially vital for this type of exercise since it is crucial to choose the right stretching exercises and complete them correctly.

What Is the Importance of Health Promotion by Physiotherapists in Managing Chronic Illnesses?

Physiotherapists function as first-contact professionals in primary care settings such as ambulatory services and private practices, as well as in public events, hospitals, and community health clinics. They work with people of all ages, perform treatments and teach exercises to infants, the elderly, and children.

Physiotherapists are uniquely positioned to provide information and guidance to patients suffering from or at risk of acquiring a chronic disease. Physiotherapists can prescribe and implement therapeutic exercise on an individual or group basis, as well as lead exercise and education classes for people who have been diagnosed with or are at risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiorespiratory, vascular, and musculoskeletal conditions.

Why Is It Important to Enable People to Self-Manage Their Chronic Disease Conditions?

Person-centered health care requires forming relationships with people in order to help them keep their freedom and perform at their best. Self-management is an important element of this process. Self-care programs should focus on delivering information to people with chronic conditions about lifestyle changes, healthcare system support, and how and when to access resources.

The purpose is to work in cooperation with individuals to enable them to set goals, play a more active role in their health care, and get credible information about their disease. Physiotherapists can deliver education in a variety of contexts, including one-on-one consultations and structured group education courses, such as disease-specific self-management seminars.


You will stick to a program if you incorporate physical therapy and physical activity into your everyday routine. This is significant because it keeps you active, reduces pain and discomfort caused by a variety of chronic ailments, and helps you stay on track and live your best life. Consult a physiotherapist who is trained to assess specific patient needs and provide exercise plans and schedules for improved chronic disease prevention and management.

Article Resources

Last reviewed at:
03 Feb 2023  -  6 min read




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