Caring for others can be a difficult and stressful job that can strain muscles and make certain moving functions painful.

It’s important for caregivers to care for themselves as well. Their well-being is very important to themselves and to those for whom they care.

Studies have shown that stress related to caregiving can easily lead to the development of other diseases.

So what can a caregiver do to relieve this stress? There are a number of ways for caregivers to de-stress, said Scott Barnett, physical therapist at Stillpoint Therapy Center in Gainesville. They include physical therapy, traditional massage, acupuncture and other traditional Chinese Medicine treatments such as cupping and Tui Na massage.

“These methods can reduce pain and swelling, and it gives us the chance to strengthen that function during physical therapy,” Barnett said. “And we certainly like to try them before prescribing drugs to treat the effects of caregiver stress.”

Combining these nature-based treatments with traditional physical therapy can actually enhance the benefits one would receive from physical therapy alone.

These approaches to medicine are generally non-invasive, Barnett said, and serve to promote functional independence and a better quality of life, certainly something very important for caregivers.

Acupuncture physicians like Barnett are trained to teach tai chi, yoga, acupressure and meditation techniques, as well as give dietary advice, and they can help caregivers learn how to care for themselves again.

The acupuncture or cupping will relax the muscles, and physical therapy can improve functionality. The result is caregivers are in a better position to do what they need to do.

Additionally, physical therapists can act as liaisons between caregivers and those for whom they are caring. They give patients the motivation to do certain tasks on their own and teach caregivers to refrain from doing everything for the patient, so the patient can begin doing things for himself or herself.

The end result of physical therapy and these other treatments is to improve the quality of life of everyone involved.

“I believe that this approach provides better long-term results,” Barnett said. “After all, we are part of nature so we should focus there, and not on shortcuts that provide short-term symptom relief without addressing the real cause.”

By Damaris Lopez