PTSD and physical activity – more important than you think

October 23, 2019
Woman in pain sitting on her bed hunched over

By Andy Lefebvre, PT, FCAMPT, Registered Physiotherapist

Andy has over 16 years of experience working with Veterans, First Responders, victims of motor vehicle accidents and other injuries that impact people’s lives. As part of the MAPS team – Moving Ahead of Post-Traumatic Stress, Andy delivers functional, evidence-based and manageable programs for every client.

Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) is an anxiety disorder that presents with psychological symptoms long after a traumatic event and if an injury occurred with the traumatic event, chronic pain may also be experienced by the patient.

People suffering from PTS and other conditions such as depression, for example, tend to experience more severe and long-lasting pain than other people.

There appears to be a direct link between mental health and pain, with pain sharing some of the same biological mechanisms with anxiety and depression and there's growing evidence of the beneficial effects of exercise on mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety.

PTS can often cause anxiety, which can manifest into physical symptoms including headaches, increased heart rate and dizziness. As a result of the anxiety, people suffering from PTS are at a higher risk for developing increased blood pressure and heart palpitations.

Benefits of exercises include increased strength, improved endurance, improved mood, increased energy, pain control, and improved blood pressure. A recent review of the literature suggests aerobic exercise (walking, cycling, jogging, sports) may also reduce PTS symptoms, providing evidence for the use of exercise as a form of treatment.

A physiotherapist is an expert in dealing with physical injury and can help with pain control, improving Range of Motion (ROM), strength and function and as such can be an integral part of the rehabilitation team for those suffering from PTS.  Physiotherapy treatment for PTS may include but is not limited to: range of motion and strength exercise prescription, manual therapy (mobilization/manipulation), modalities (including acupuncture), relaxation training (deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, and mindfulness training). A physiotherapist at Our Clinic will be working closely with the other members of the treatment team in order to design a program specifically for the patient.

People suffering from PTS can suffer from chronic anxiety, depression and pain making it difficult to know where to start when it comes to exercises, fitness and physical well-being.  Our Clinic’s Physiotherapist can help identify the physical limitations to movement, strength and function and develop a comprehensive plan to alleviate pain and improve physical and often mental health. 

Physical wellness is a cornerstone of the new MAPS program – Moving Ahead of Post-Traumatic Stress. If you are experiencing PTS, or know someone who is, and you’d like more information, contact Our Clinic in London at 519-937-1881, in Ottawa at 613-369-8389, or online at

Our Clinic delivers full spectrum, total health care and has assembled a strong and experienced medical team in its unique, multi-disciplinary healthcare centre located in London, Ontario. The suite of services available is dedicated to mental and physical rehabilitation, all managed and coordinated for you by our Treatment Navigator.

Our Clinic is a proudly philanthropic organization.  Proceeds from Our Clinic are used to support the Rebuild Program which helps those without medical benefits receive health services and wellness products.