Physical Therapy for PTSD

Physical Therapy for PTSD

Written by Dr. Navid Hannanvash PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS, CAFS, FAFS | CEO & OWNER

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) are classified as anxiety and stress related to traumatic experiences.You may be asking yourself what that has to do with physical therapy? The short answer is everything. As an integral part of a multi-disciplinary approach to healthcare, physical therapists work with other practitioners to help supplement the care of PTSD and PTS. As a wise man once said, “some patients may have one leg or two, some patients pay have one lung or two, but all patients have a brain.” The effects of physical therapy on the brain can help support many of the influential factors related to these issues.


pain is your body’s natural response to a stimulus that it deems as potentially dangerous (or in most cases a stimulus that is dangerous). In relation to PTSD or PTS, many patients that experience the anxiety and stress associated with these diagnoses experience some sort of pain. Whether that’s a lingering body pain or ache, or some other type of pain, physical therapists have made their living treating various sorts of pain. Whether that’s via soft tissue work, joint mobilizations, strengthening, range of motion exercises, strengthening exercises, stability exercises, or other forms of treatment, a physical therapist’s bread and butter is the ability to affect an individual’s pain. When managing and recovering from traumatic and stressful events the ability to clear the body’s “bandwidth” to deal with those things and not focus its energy on other physical pain is a main pathway to success.


Exercise has been showing as one of the most effective ways to manage stress and anxiety in individuals. Regardless of what someone is going through, becoming part of a regular exercise program that is coordinated and driven by a Doctor of Physical Therapy can help release chemicals in the body that can help reduce anxiety, stress, and other PTSD related symptoms.


Breathing is easier said than done when someone is experiencing (or has experienced) a traumatic event. As someone who has experienced hospitalizing severe panic attacks or anxious events, the last thing you want to hear someone say is “just breathe.” Your immediate response is to tell them, “If I could do it, I’d be doing it.” This is because experiencing any level of stress, anxiety, PTSD, or PST can cause your brain to be “taken over” by thoughts and chemicals. One of the most effective tools a therapist has to support these individuals is to give them different “tools” to have in their toolbox. Small, simple, quick tricks to have in your repertoire can help reduce or eliminate this brain overdrive and restore a normal level of functioning. Not each technique works for everyone, so for more ideas of breathing techniques to help in different situations check out our blog on breathing exercises for PTSD.

If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing symptoms related to PTSD or PST, know that you’re not alone and that it is not abnormal. Whether it is from a highly traumatic event or a smaller event, it takes a team of individuals that care about your wellbeing and are trained in multiple techniques to support the body and mind. To schedule a session with a therapist to learn more about some techniques to support your body and mind contact us. Remember, you only have one mind and giving it the support it needs is the best gift you can give yourself or someone you love.