Physiotherapy and PTSD

People with PTSD may suffer from typical trauma consequences such as lack of sleep, anxiety attacks, and social withdrawal. Often, however, they also plague other symptoms that occur as side effects and result from the symptoms of PTSD. This is where physiotherapy comes in.

How Physical Therapy Can Help with PTSD

Because people living with trauma and suffering from PTSD can often be triggered by everyday situations that remind them of the traumatic experience, they quickly learn to avoid these triggers as much as possible. This is an important starting point for the treatment of PTSD. Because there are studies that prove an improvement in the actual symptoms such as lack of sleep and anxiety attacks.

At the same time, long-term consequences of behavior altered by PTSD play a role in physical symptoms with which sufferers have to struggle. For example, PTSD patients suffer from cardiovascular diseases at an above-average rate. This can be easily explained by the fact that people with PTSD often avoid physical exertion because they fear a hyperarousal with a faster heartbeat.

Researchers recommend exercising regularly

The recommendations that researchers made based on their study results included that people with PTSD should aim for about 150 minutes of moderate exercise and 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Likewise, they recommended doing strength training at least twice a week.

They also recommend that physiotherapists and other people in the health sector should specifically support those affected in overcoming internal barriers to physical activity and physical discomfort and pain. Internal resistance such as the feeling of loss of energy, loss of motivation and interest and a general feeling of fatigue should also be addressed so that people with PTSD can lead a more active life and move within sufficient limits. It is important that they also feel safe during sports activities and can deal with the possible trigger of a hyperarousal.

Unfortunately, studies on the topic are still rare and there is little background material on the topic. A book that is aimed at those affected, but above all at treating physiotherapists and deals with the topic of lung and cardiovascular health in trauma patients, is Cardiopulmonary Physiotherapy In Trauma: An Evidence-based Approach. Here you can find detailed descriptions of the physical effects of PTSD and its treatment options.


Guitonneau, J., Jouvion, A-X., Paul F., Trappier, T., De Brier, G., Thefenne, L. (2017). Is Physiotherapy useful for post-traumatic stress disorder in military personnel? Annals of Physical Rehabilitation Medicine. 60, 55th doi: 10.1016/

Vancampfort, D., Stubbs, B., Richards, B. Ward, P., Firth, J., Schusch, F., Rosenbaum, S. (2016). Physical fitness in people with posttraumatic stress disorder: a systematic review. Disability and Rehabilitation, 39(24). doi:10.1080/09638288.2016.1226412
Van Aswegen, H., Morrow, B. Cardiopulmonary Physiotherapy In Trauma: An Evidence-based Approach. Imperial College Press. (2015).

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