Rehabilitation is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a set of interventions designed to optimize functioning and reduce disability in individuals with health conditions in interaction with their environment.” Many people associate physical therapy and physical rehabilitation as one and the same; however, physical therapy falls under the larger umbrella of physical rehabilitation. Physical therapy involves an array of physical techniques used to relieve pain, improve movement, provide rehabilitation after a stroke, injury, or surgery, assist in recovery after giving birth, assist in the recovery of sports-related injuries, teach individuals how to use devices such as walkers and canes, manage chronic illnesses like heart disease or arthritis, and more. According to Harvard Health the three main options for physical rehabilitation include the following:
- Inpatient rehab: offers comprehensive care from a team of professionals (e.g., nurses, doctors, therapists, etc.) when a patient is too unwell to return home. The two types of inpatient rehab include:
- Acute rehab: this is the highest level of rehab and is often recommended after a traumatic medical problem (e.g., stroke). Acute rehabilitation is in a hospital or a stand-alone building and focuses on providing patients with intensive rehab support such as meeting daily with doctors, physical therapists (to restore physical function), occupational therapists (to restore one’s ability to perform daily activities), speech therapists (to help restore communication and swallowing skills), and other types of health professionals (e.g., respiratory therapists), depending on one’s illness.
- Subacute care (also called skilled nursing): typically located within a nursing home, where doctors will only visit periodically and patients will spend less time with physical, occupational, and speech therapists.
- Outpatient rehab: this is beneficial for people that are well enough and able to get to a facility and work with their clinical care team throughout the week as well as continue implementing treatment recommendations in a self-directed manner between sessions, while at home.
- At-home rehab: a patient that has not fully recovered may benefit from at-home rehab after a hospital stay or an inpatient rehab stay, where skilled professionals (e.g., nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, etc.) are sent to one’s home.
The different physical rehabilitation options each aim to restore a patient’s independence and reach optimal physical functioning.
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