How Physical Therapy can help ease Depression

Unless you suffer from depression or have a loved one that does, it is very difficult to understand how horrible the disease actually is. Depression runs in my family. Not only do a number of people in my family suffer from it, but we recently lost my grandfather to suicide because of it.

How-Physical-Therapy-can-help-ease-Depression-2My father has suffered from depression, and his story is not so uncommon in America. In August of 2015 he had prostate surgery and his recovery was most difficult. He was out of work for four months, as a result he could not exercise and he lost approximately 40 pounds. So falling into a deep depression was almost unavoidable.

We all kept telling him that there was a light at the end of this tunnel, that he would feel better soon, but it was as though he couldn’t hear us. He just wanted it all to end – even if that meant taking his life. That might sound drastic but because his father had committed suicide, the option was all too real and accessible.

Family members would ask him ‘what about your kids?’ He would say, ‘when you are this depressed you see nothing else but ending the pain.’ His hope of recovery had diminished, even though that wasn’t medically the case and he had made his way to a place where he no longer saw life as a viable option.

By December of 2015, four months after his surgery, from which he was expected to recover three months earlier, he started to believe that he was at a point where he would never recover. In his mind this meant that he would never be able to work or workout out again and would never regain the strength he had prior to his surgery. None of this was medically proven. It was what he believed he was capable of, and nothing any of us said to the contrary was worth believing for him.

By now he had also contracted Spondylolisthesis—a back condition in which one’s vertebrae are displaced. This made it difficult for him to walk more than 100 yards without pain.

He was almost at the point of giving up until he decided to try physical therapy. He met Sarah Nordstrom, a physical therapist and she immediately changed his mindset.

How-Physical-Therapy-can-help-ease-Depression-3He went through the physical therapy twice a week for six weeks. Because of that he started to become more mobile. He began walking a few feet on his own, which had become impossible. This gave him hope. Now, less than six months later, he can successfully walk up to two hours on his own with no pain. He has also taken on swimming. He swims one mile(48 laps) three to five times a week. He is no longer suicidal.

Not everyone who suffers from depression simultaneously suffers from a condition such as
Spondyloisthesis. But in this case, the inability to walk had caused my father’s depression to worsen dramatically. Others who’s depression has led them to move less, stay indoors and lose a lot of the strength in their muscles might be able to try physical therapy to help them regain their movement.

The act of working with a professional to regain strength, physically and mentally could potentially give them the help they need to start thinking about life in a positive way again.

If you suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts and feel as though you have tried everything – you may want to reach out to a physical therapist and explain that you want to regain overall strength physically and mentally.

The exercises they gave my father gave him something to work towards. When he regained his strength, he began to workout again and after some time he felt accomplished. He was finally not in such a dark place.

If you have a loved one who suffers from depression, maybe physical therapy could assist you too. For general information on depression please contact the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, for questions about suicide please contact the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.