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Jackson: Physical therapy important when in substance-abuse recovery


Life after entering recovery involves much more than abstaining from drugs and alcohol. It is about changing the person’s lifestyle so they can function in their everyday life without the need of substances.

Many times, people in recovery deal with the mental aspect of their addiction but neglect the physical toll the abuse has put on their body. Drugs and alcohol harm the body as much physically as they do mentally. Getting back into or starting a new physical exercise routine is important for overall health and long-term sobriety.

Here are a few ways physical therapy can help those in recovery get back to a healthy way of living.

Strengthens muscles and addresses underlying pain

A key physical effect of drug and alcohol abuse is muscle deconditioning. Due to substance abuse, it is common to become more sedentary which causes the muscles to weaken and become smaller. Physical therapy can help a person return to physical activity in a safe manner by guiding them through appropriate exercises.

Over time the physical exertion helps build back muscle mass making them stronger. Having strong muscles helps with joint issues and can help prevent injury. Substance abuse can also mask underlying physical pain. Physical therapy interventions will help address these areas of pain and provide alternative ways to better manage it.


When using drugs and alcohol the brain releases chemicals that make the person feel good. This is the reason many people continue using more and more substances so they can try to reach that original high. Through exercise and physical therapy these same chemicals are released, yet in a way that is healthier and longer lasting. For example, think of how people who run say they experience a “runner’s high.”

Exercising regularly also helps with depression by releasing chemicals that aid in feeling happy, excited and more energized. Creating and sticking to an exercise routine gives the body that good feeling which is a healthy alternative from drugs and alcohol. Some physical therapies include yoga to calm the mind and help people learn to relax which has positive benefits on the person’s mental and physical health.

Prevents disease

Drug and alcohol abuse can lead to a myriad of health issues including arthritis, high blood pressure and digestive problems that can become chronic if left untreated. Physical therapy helps strengthen the person’s body and can have a reversing effect on some health issues.

Improving strength, endurance and heart health through physical therapy can help prevent the person from developing future problems due to substance abuse. The longer the person continues their therapy routine the more health benefits they will see and the more their body will repair.

Promotes healthy living

Physical therapy helps people in recovery learn how to lead a healthy life including creating good habits and building physical fitness. Exercise works together with mental health therapies, since exercise is often a coping mechanism for people who need assistance overcoming mental barriers. Physical and mental therapy combined can help the person replace old bad habits with positive ones that will lead to a happier and healthier lifestyle.

Physical therapy isn’t enough to solve the issues surrounding substance abuse, but it can help the person get back on track to a healthy lifestyle. Combining physical therapy and mental therapy together will help a person in recovery get back to leading a well-rounded healthy life.

If you or a loved one needs help due to drug or alcohol abuse, contact Recovia today at recovia.com. Recovia is an outpatient treatment center in Arizona specializing in chronic pain, general mental health and substance abuse treatment.