How to Include Physical Therapy as Treatment for POTS Syndrome

Posted on Sep 09, 2018

Posted in: PT Tips,Specialty Treatments

If you struggle with a disability that impacts mobility, physical therapy is necessary part of your treatment plan. When your condition has no cure, a custom exercise program created by a certified physical therapist is more than a plan: it can be a life saver.

The Peak Performance Physical Therapy team has experience in helping patients with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). This disorder, described as a malfunction of the autonomic nervous system condition, is starting to gain more attention in the medical community, thanks to with work of Lauren Stiles, founder of Dysautonomia International and Tori Foles, wife of Philadelphia Eagles MVP Nick Foles.

POTS syndrome patients are seeking treatment from physical therapists because research studies show 30 minutes a day of exercise three times a week can improve blood flow volume and circulation. For many patients, it can also improve mobility and stamina.

Emily, a 25-year-old teacher from Appleton, is a patient entering her second month of physical therapy at Peak Performance. She was diagnosed with juvenile onset Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) when she was 13 years old. She struggled with fatigue, headaches, lightheadedness, exercise intolerance and nausea. Exercise was extremely difficult for her due to her lower oxygen uptake.

Finding a physical therapy clinic who would treat her was difficult. She called several practices in the Fox Cities region who said they weren’t comfortable treating patient with her condition.

How to Include Physical Therapy as Treatment for POTS Syndrome

Peak Performance PT Molly Van Zeeland

Peak Performance physical therapist Molly Van Zeeland, embraced the opportunity to help. Her approach is to follow the Levine protocol closely.

Approximately half of the sessions with patients like Emily focus on endurance training, while monitoring her heart rate at all times. According to studies by Dr. Benjamin Levine, endurance training under the supervision of a certified physical therapist helps expand blood and plasma volume, increases cardiac size and mass and improves orthostatic tolerance.

Emily has seen improvements to her quality of life as a result of her experience with physical therapy. She started off well with Molly because her questions were answered in a manner where she felt comfortable with her therapist and plan. Here is a list of several topics covered, to help others with POTS syndrome find the right physical therapist for their needs.

Questions to Ask a Physical Therapist

  1. Will you have the same therapist for each visit? What is the level of commitment to learn about your specific POTS condition?
  2. How slowly is the therapist willing to work? For patients with POTS syndrome, slow progress is better than no progress!
  3. What is the POTS treatment protocol (make sure it aligns with your needs).
  4. How does the therapist help POTS patients work through anxieties?
  5. How will the therapist help set goals and meet them?
  6. Is the exercise equipment available to use at any time? At Peak Performance, patients can use our equipment, even after they are discharged.
  7. Are there other value-added insights your therapist brings to the relationship? Coping skills? Diet advice? Meditation ideas?

POTS Resources

As more patients are correctly diagnosed with POTS syndrome, the Peak Performance team hopes to provide the opportunity to improve the lives of others.

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