How Physiotherapy Can Improve Quality of Life for Palliative Patients

By Berry Mathew


Palliative care is the care of a person facing a serious, life-shortening, terminal illness. Specialists who provide Palliative care work to relieve any suffering or pain, manage any emotional and mental hurdles, and generally improve the quality of life for the person — and for their family members.

In a study by The New England Journal of Medicine, it was found that “Patients assigned to early Palliative care had a better quality of life than patients assigned to standard care.”

Palliative care providers are specially trained to assist end-of-life patients in partnership with the patient’s regular family doctor. Palliative care teams — usually composed of doctors, nurses, and other niche healthcare specialists — are structured to step in at any point of the journey based on the patients’ needs. 

Palliative care teams will often chat with their patients to ascertain goals. They will ensure that doctors are aware of the client’s wants, giving the patient more control over their care; this is one of the many merits of working with compassionate Palliative care caregivers

It’s important to remember that Palliative care is based on the individual’s needs and not their diagnosis. Because of this, in addition to traditional and conventional medicines, studies have proven that holistic treatments, including massage and physiotherapy, can improve the quality of life for some Palliative patients. 

What Is Physiotherapy?

Physiotherapists are prescribed to support patients following a range of traumas or injuries. 

After a physical evaluation, physiotherapists will teach pain or injury management techniques, provide physical rehabilitation, ensure ongoing health promotion, and impart their knowledge on the virtues of restorative measures.  

The ultimate goal of physiotherapy is to restore the patient’s flexibility, function, and well-being to the best state possible.

When Is Physiotherapy Usually Administered?

Depending on the course of treatment, physiotherapy can be administered to help the body in response to the following medical conditions, stressors or traumas:

  • An accident resulted in a new injury.
  • Surgery.
  • Chronic pain from longstanding degeneration or an old injury.
  • Musculoskeletal conditions. Musculoskeletal impairments affect the muscles (like sarcopenia),bones (such as osteoporosis), joints (like osteoarthritis), and adjacent connective tissues. Deterioration can lead to temporary or permanent limitations.
  • Arthritis.
  • Strokes.

Overall, physiotherapy has a positive effect on Palliative patients whose bodies are experiencing these forms of strains, but it can also help with emotional issues of upset and distress. In addition to the benefits and reasons for physiotherapy mentioned above, and to elaborate further, physiotherapy can help Palliative patients by:

Reducing Stiffness: This is especially important for patients who spend a lot of time in bed, in an armchair or in a wheelchair or who suffer from degenerative arthritis, which can cause extreme pain in the joints. Working out stiffness is a core benefit of physiotherapy.

Improving Coordination and Mobility: This will reduce the patient’s potential for falling, re-injuring themselves and causing new injuries. A physiotherapist can show Palliative patients how to get out of bed, sit in a chair, and use walking aids and other mobility exercises. Using these supportive tools will limit the potential for personal injury.

Improving Respiratory Distress: Physiotherapists can introduce new ways of breathing to reduce feelings of breathlessness (respiratory issues can emerge as a result of a host of issues affecting people in Palliative care).

Reducing the Feeling of Tiredness: Injuries, stress, stiffness, and pain can have a profound effect on our ability to feel positive and motivated. They can be highly fatiguing and demoralizing. Trained physiotherapists will show persons receiving Palliative care how to conserve their energy during day-to-day tasks and enjoy a genuine uptick in levels of vitality.

To summarize, physiotherapy is important for those in Palliative care as it allows them to enjoy improved mobility, range of motion, balance, strength, energy, and more. It’s a key form of therapy for Palliative care patients and an excellent way to help them retain as much independence, dignity and normalcy as possible through their day-to-day activities and personal care tasks.