How Physiotherapy can help Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is an emotional condition that develops after somebody has experienced, or witnessed, a serious accident or traumatic event. If you have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, been part of violence or an attack, been physically injured, or have experienced the unexpected death of a family member or close friend, you may experience PTSD.

How does PTSD present?

There are different signs and symptoms on how PTSD can present, the most common ones are: having flashbacks, trouble sleeping, a numb or empty feeling, depression, lack of concentration and/or motivation.

What physical injuries can cause PTSD?

PTSD would normally present within the first 6 months after a life changing physical injury, such as: becoming an amputee, acquiring a brain injury, a spinal injury, having severe burns, or becoming disabled.

Who can support you?

A holistic approach is needed as part of PTSD treatment after a physical injury.

This may involve psychiatric care from a primary professional, consultants, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. Multi-disciplinary team management support is vital; without this support your condition can worsen by increasing levels of pain, poor healing, reduced immune system, increased likelihood to acquire other illnesses, reduced mobility and/or functionality. All the practitioner’s approaches would be based on body-mind relation.

How Physiotherapy can help PTSD?

To start with, I strongly agree with Byron Katie when she says: “Work your mind and the body will follow; it doesn’t have a choice”.

Once a psychology or psychiatry program is in place, a Physiotherapist will assess the physical impairments and will identify the impact of those impairments on your life. A Physio will be able to guide and support your recovery process by putting in place specific programs such as:

  • Breathing controlled exercises to increase oxygen levels and reduce anxiety
  • Yoga based exercise programs; where body and mind are connected
  • Invites to exercises group therapy; where you can meet people with same physical conditions and relate to them
  • Provide hydrotherapy sessions, if suitable. These are proven to reduce pain, tension, stress and decreases brain overactivity
  • Therapy meetings to discuss expectations and set up realistic goals; all based on promoting functionality and independence
  • Work alongside your psychologist or psychiatrist and implement their recommendations during Physio sessions
  • Have regular team reviews to re-assess and prevent deterioration

If you, or a loved one, his experiencing or experienced PTSD after a physical life-changing injury, strongly believe you are not alone. Speak directly to your own health professional and do not be ashamed to ask for help. Physiotherapy is not only exercise and movement; it is functionality, independence and quality of life, that is why we must work together.


Joana Henao

Consultant Physiotherapist

Consultant Physiotherapist

Physit Limited.
Registered Office: 71-75 Shelton Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9JQ
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