Does Physical Therapy Help Arthritis?

Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the U.S., affecting the joints of nearly 60 million adults and 300,000 children, according to the Arthritis Foundation

The human body contains approximately 360 joints that help our bodies move in various ways. When we experience joint pain or disease, our ability to move freely without pain can be severely altered. 

Living with chronic diseases such as arthritis can be difficult. Fortunately, physical therapy has been shown to help manage pain and other symptoms of arthritis. Keep reading to learn more about arthritis and how physical therapy can help. 

An elderly woman knitting

What is Arthritis?

To understand how physical therapy can help arthritis, it’s important first to understand the condition. 

Arthritis is not one singular disease; rather, it refers to joint pain or joint disease associated with over 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions. 

Arthritis equals joint inflammation. Since there are so many different joints in the human body, different types of arthritis affect different parts of the body. 

Common symptoms of arthritis include swelling, pain, stiffness, and a diminished range of motion in the joints. Pain can range from mild to severe, and it may come and go or feel constant. Arthritis symptoms may plateau in severity, or they may get worse over time. 

While we mistakenly often only associate arthritis as a disease of aging, children and adults of all ages can experience forms of arthritis. Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, for example, occurs in children. This multifaceted disease is believed to be caused by a combination of genetics and environment.

Types of arthritis infographic

Physical Therapy for Arthritis

The goal of physical therapy is to ease pain and discomfort, allowing you to move better and more comfortably. At Mid-County Physical Therapy, we focus on movement and overall wellness. This is what makes physical therapy an ideal treatment for arthritis. 

As we know, arthritis can make even basic, everyday movements painful. People often believe that they should avoid all physical activity so as not to exacerbate their symptoms. However, proper movements that utilize your joints will help keep your muscles strong and active and will help prevent further damage.

Movement is important, so your doctor may recommend physical therapy as one of several treatments for your arthritis. When you work with a physical therapist, they will formulate a plan to help you manage symptoms, increase mobility, and improve physical function. 

PT provides a safe setting for joint and muscle activity to keep the body as healthy and active as possible. Some exercises can further affect joint damage, so you should always consult your doctor or PT before starting an exercise regime.

 In many cases, particularly when it comes to osteoarthritis, low-impact exercises are best. Things like swimming and elliptical machines are usually safe. When you work with a physical therapist, they will create a customized plan unique to your situation and goals. 

During your physical therapy, you might receive some of the following therapies and education:

  • Hot and cold therapy to ease joint pain and stiffness
  • 830 Laser Therapy to reduce pain and inflammation
  • An exercise program to improve your range of motion, strength, and balance
  • Education on proper posture or body mechanics to help reduce pain/improve function
  • Environmental modification recommendations, such as ergonomic chairs to help reduce risks that might exacerbate your condition

Physical Therapy for Knee Arthritis

Physical therapy can particularly benefit individuals with knee osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis of the knee is one of the most common forms of arthritis we see in physical therapy. The knee is the largest and strongest joint in your body, and we rely heavily on our knees to get around. Walking, sitting, and bending down are made possible by our knees. 

An elderly man in an orange t-shirt with a jump rope

That’s why knee arthritis can be so debilitating: the inflammation and degeneration of cartilage can make it very difficult to do many everyday activities, such as walking and climbing stairs. 

When it comes to physical therapy for knee arthritis, we focus on exercises that can help increase your range of motion and flexibility and help strengthen your leg muscles. 

PT can help to reduce pain, swelling, and stiffness and can help improve knee joint function. By minimizing knee pain, swelling, and stiffness, many patients with arthritis find it easier to walk, bend, kneel, squat, and sit.

Physical Therapy for Hip Arthritis

Hip osteoarthritis is the inflammation and wearing away of the hip joint cartilage. While it can occur at any age, it is more commonly diagnosed in older adults. Arthritis of the hip can make daily tasks, such as walking or climbing stairs, very difficult.

With physical therapy for hip arthritis, your PT will look for any loss of motion, muscle weakness, or balance problems associated with your hip OA. 

Your physical therapist will also help you exercise and modify your physical activity to help protect the hip joint while performing daily activities. Walking, sitting, climbing stairs, standing, carrying loads, and lying in bed are all activities that involve your hip. 

Physical therapy for hip arthritis involves 

  • Reducing pain
  • Improving leg, hip, and back motion 
  • Improving your strength, standing balance, and walking ability

Physical Therapy for Spine Arthritis

Osteoarthritis of the spine can occur due to a spinal injury, wear and tear on the spinal discs, or an inherited tendency to develop osteoarthritis. OA of the spine is usually diagnosed in adults over the age of 50. 

Since the spine is the backbone of the human bone, arthritis-caused back pain can significantly interfere with your daily life. The good news is that physical therapy for arthritis of the spine can offer you relief. 

Here are some ways your PT can help your spine OA:

  • Exercise 
  • Stretching
  • Balance training
  • Braces or taping
  • Manual therapy
  • Daily activity training 

Find Arthritis Relief With Mid-County Physical Therapy

If you have arthritis, it may be disheartening to know that there is currently no cure. However, it is possible to manage your symptoms for a lesser impact on your day-to-day life. The good news is that the modern physical therapy solutions we practice at Mid-County Physical Therapy can help you to remain as active as possible for as long as possible.

Arthritis relief is in your future! The first step on your path to healing and pain relief is to make an appointment with our team today!

 

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