Physical therapy for POTS: Does it work?

In searching for more ways to feel better, we wanted to know how POTS patients felt about physical therapy (PT). Granted, there are many different modalities of PT (e.g., using rowing machines, aqua-therapy, recumbent bicycles, weights, or other programs), but we were curious whether any trends would emerge about PT in general. In theory, PT sounds like an effective way to strengthen the heart and muscles, and to improve blood flow to the entire body. That said, POTS seem to have unusual reactions to all sorts of things, so we used the POTS Patient-Powered Survey to inquire about their experiences.

In the survey, we listed PT among other therapies, and asked participants:

A) whether they had tried it, and B) whether it had "helped lots!" "helped a little," "didn't help," or "made my POTS worse."

Below are the responses from 431 POTS patients.

Yes, 183 No, 248

Next, for those 183 who had tried PT, below are their ratings:

Helped a lot!, 19% Helped a little, 35% Didn't help, 23% Made my POTS worse, 22%

At first glance, it appears encouraging that PT was rated as helpful (a little or a lot) by 54% of those who had tried it. A full 19% said PT "helped a lot!" On the down side, 22% rated PT as making their POTS worse.

To put PT in perspective with other non-drug therapies, we compared it to acupuncture, massage, counseling, essential oils and elevating the head of the bed. For each, we identified POTS patients who had tried the therapy and then looked at their ratings of whether it helped their POTS:

"Physical therapy (n=183)", 54% "Massage (n=132)", 63% "Acupuncture (n=100)", 44% "Counseling (n=177)", 43% "Essential oils (n=89)", 54% "Elevating head of bed (n=231)", 52%

What is perhaps most encouraging is that each therapy helped a number of patients, and that multiple therapies might be combined for additive benefits.

To read more details about effectiveness of these other treatments, you can find more details in our findings about massage, acupuncture, counseling, essential oils, or elevating the head of the bed

And if you want to try physical therapy, remember to first get a doctor's clearance. Happy exercising and be well!

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