Physical Therapy for General Deconditioning 

Injuries, surgical procedures, and serious illnesses can all take a major toll on the human body resulting in a difficult recovery process. In cases of injury or surgery, your doctor may recommend a sedentary lifestyle as you heal, such as bed rest. In other cases, your injury or chronic illness might limit your mobility in other ways. 

While your injuries heal or your body is prevented from moving naturally, other parts of your body may actually begin to deteriorate due to misuse. We call this general deconditioning. 

At Mid-County Physical Therapy, we help patients recover from various ailments as well as provide physical therapy for deconditioning when such ailments affect the long-term and overall physical health of our patients. 

What is Physical Deconditioning? 

Deconditioning refers to the complex process of physiological and/or psychological decline in function due to a lack of physical activity, most often due to illness or injury. The human body is not meant to remain inactive for such long periods of time. When we suddenly stop being active, we can experience rapid deterioration of the muscles, bones, and even sometimes the mind.

General deconditioning is most common among patients who are confined to bed rest, such as the elderly, those recovering from a severe injury, or individuals experiencing a debilitating illness such as fibromyalgia.

These are some of the most common causes of general deconditioning:

  • Illnesses such as cancer, stroke, heart attack, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome 
  • Injuries including back injuries, broken bones, and soft tissue injuries
  • A long hospital stay 
  • Pregnancy, particularly if bed rest is needed

In addition to these causes, some factors put individuals at higher risk for developing deconditioning, such as 

  • Obesity
  • Poor nutrition 
  • Age 

The severity of physical deconditioning symptoms varies from patient to patient. Oftentimes the worst effects are experienced by individuals who had a more active lifestyle before the inactivity. 

A blonde woman lying in hospital bed alone

For example, if you are a marathon runner, you are training weekly, if not every day. Frequent cardio exercises like running build strength in your leg muscles and cardiovascular system. If an ankle injury or knee pain such as a torn ACL suddenly stops your routine, you will experience significant cardiovascular decline as you heal. 

Three Stages of Physical Deconditioning 

In general, there are three different stages of deconditioning that will affect your ability to do normal everyday activities in different ways. 

Mild Deconditioning 

Mild deconditioning only affects your ability to do your normal exercise activities, such as running, biking, etc. 

Moderate Deconditioning 

Moderate deconditioning affects more of your daily activities such as walking, shopping, and performing household chores. 

Severe Deconditioning

Severe deconditioning severely limits your ability to perform minimal activities and may prevent you from doing your usual self-care routine.

When recovering from an ailment that impacts the body’s overall ability to function, general deconditioning physical therapy is an important step in building your strength. 

What Are General Deconditioning Symptoms? 

While muscle loss and weakness may seem the most obvious sign of physical deconditioning, it is not the only symptom to watch out for. Because prolonged inactivity affects most body systems, deconditioning symptoms can appear throughout the body. 

These are the most common symptoms of general deconditioning:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Pain or discomfort with normal activity
  • Decrease in activity and endurance
  • Pulmonary conditions, such as pneumonia and hypoxemia 
  • Digestive issues, such as loss of appetite
  • Physiological issues, such as confusion and depression
  • Osteoporosis/osteoarthritis
  • Impaired balance and coordination
  • Blood clots
  • Physiological issues, such as confusion and depression

Because these changes can affect your ability to live your life normally, it is important to seek out rehabilitation treatment as soon as you have been diagnosed with deconditioning. 

Prevent and Treat Deconditioning at Mid-County Physical Therapy

A male instructor leading a fitness class for elderly women

General deconditioning can affect just about every aspect of your life. However, the good news is that physical deconditioning is both preventable and treatable. If you experience an injury or ailment that puts you at risk for deconditioning, it is important to work with your doctor and a physical therapist to create an exercise regime that will accommodate your condition while remaining active. 

When you work with the team at Mid-County Physical Therapy, we will collaborate to develop a fully customized physical therapy program that primarily focuses on your problem areas.

In most cases, physical therapy for general deconditioning includes activities that will help to build muscle tone, improve cardiovascular function, increase endurance, and help elevate your mood. 

The healthcare experts at Mid-County Physical Therapy have the training and experience necessary to help you not only get back to normal after an injury or illness but also improve your overall health and well-being. 

For more information on our deconditioning services, contact Mid-County Physical Therapy today!


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