Millions of people are treated in an intensive care unit (ICU) every year, and a fair amount will need to be connected to a ventilator to help them breathe. Even when these patients overcome the condition that put them in the ICU in the first place, being bedridden for days, weeks or months can take a significant toll on the body. Many of these patients will need additional care once they are discharged from the ICU, and one of the most common forms of treatment is through physical therapy. Below, we explore how PT can be helpful for someone dealing with post-intensive care syndrome.
Symptoms Of PICS
Being discharged from the ICU is oftentimes a reason to celebrate, but that doesn’t always mean that you are back to full health. An extended stay in the ICU will be hard on your physical, mental and emotional health. Some symptoms that may be present in a patient dealing with PICS include:
- Muscle weakness
- Breathing problems/acute respiratory conditions
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Balance issues
- Decreased walking speed/mobility
As you can see, PICS can affect an individual in a variety of ways, and while there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment, oftentimes physical therapy is an excellent approach. Not only can it help to address physical weaknesses that have developed following an extended stay in an intensive care unit, but these physical improvements can also help to improve our mental and emotional health. You may notice that your anxiety levels or mood swings may improve as you become more functionally capable and independent.
Treating PICS With Physical Therapy
As we noted above, there is no standard approach to treating PICS with physical therapy. The specific approach will be determined following an individual assessment by a physical therapist. During this baseline testing, they will work to establish your strengths and deficits in order to develop a physical therapy program tailored to your needs.
For some patients, exercises will focus on strengthening lower body muscles to improve their gait or their balance, while others will benefit from breathing exercises and relaxation techniques in order to overcome a respiratory problem. No two PT programs to treat PICS are ever the same, which is why it is so important to connect with a skilled physical therapy team who knows how to develop the perfect program based on your needs.
And while physical therapy can help more than just your physical health, don’t be surprised if there are more people on your PICS care team than just a physical therapist. You may also need to work with a doctor, an occupational therapist, a speech-language pathologist or a psychologist in order to treat all aspects of your PICS. Recovery won’t happen overnight, but if you put your trust in the right team of medical professionals and are willing to put in the work on your end, we’re confident that you will be able to restore physical function and regain your independence following a prolonged stay in the ICU.
For more information about PICS or treating issues caused by an extended stay in a care center, reach out to the team at OrthoRehab Specialists today at (612) 339-2041.