Do People with Arthritis Need Physical Therapy?
Do your knees hurt when you first stand up? Do your fingers ache when you try to open a jar?
More than likely, you won’t realize just how much you rely on your joints for everyday use until you start experiencing joint pain on a regular basis and with normal activities.
Arthritis is one of the leading causes of joint pain and can be a real disruptor to daily life and your ability to enjoy the activities you love most. In the United States, arthritis is a prominent cause of work disability, affecting 58.5 million people nationwide — meaning it could affect just about anyone.
If you already deal with arthritis pain and you’re looking for relief, physical therapy can be a great resource to help treat symptoms. Here’s why.
Common Types of Arthritis
You may be surprised to learn that there are over 100 different types of arthritis! For this blog, we’re going to cover five of the most common types that you may experience.
More people have this type of arthritis than any other form. It’s caused by the “wear and tear” of overusing joints which reduces cartilage overtime. The degeneration causes bones to rub together, leading to pain and swelling. Typically, osteoarthritis happens as we age, but it can also be caused by injury or from being overweight — both tend to put extra strain on joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system attacks part of the body, and the joints are often the targeted area. How it works is the immune system mistakes the body’s cells for foreign invaders and releases inflammatory chemicals that attack those cells.
Common symptoms for all types of arthritis — including this one — are morning stiffness in your joints, tenderness, and swelling.
Psoriatic arthritis is also a type of inflammatory arthritis that’s caused by an autoimmune condition. The immune system attacks its own body, affecting the joints and skin primarily.
Fingers and toes may swell, and the heel or sole of the foot may also ache. For most people, it typically causes pain, swelling, and stiffness around the joints.
Lupus is a chronic type of autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and pain in the body, especially in the skin and joints.
Gout is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis, which tends to affect more men than women. It is often characterized by sharp and sudden pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness in the joints. Most often, gout occurs in the big toes, so if you’ve felt pain in that area with walking or other activities, it might be time to search out some help.
Can Physical Therapy Help Arthritis?
Do people with arthritis need physical therapy? The answer is, yes! Arthritis is painful and can be frustrating to manage, but our trained physical therapists here at Physio Physical Therapy can help. If you’re wondering what physical therapy can do for you, here are some of the ways we can help you feel better in your day-to-day life.
1.Improve range of motion
With arthritis, joints become stiff and painful so it’s important to maintain functionality. With physical therapy, our trained therapists will work with you to improve your range of motion by giving you specialized exercises to treat pain.
2. Improve muscle strength
You may not think that muscles play a key role in managing arthritis, but they do.
Weakness in your surrounding muscles can put unwanted stress on your joints, causing added pain to normal daily activities. We work with you to strengthen muscles and alleviate pain in your joints. We’ll go through exercises together in your appointment and send you off with a customized plan for home.
3. Manage pain through specialized treatments
The right strengthening exercises can be a big help with managing pain, but oftentimes they need to be accompanied with other kinds of treatment. At Physio, one of our techniques is to use manual therapy to help relieve pain and aid your joints.
With this type of treatment, we work on joint mobilization to address connective tissue tension as well as joint lubrication, which is crucial when dealing with arthritis conditions.
Tips for Managing Arthritis
While physical therapy can help manage pain and help you feel better, there are still some things to keep in mind to treat arthritis pain, outside of your appointment, that can make a difference.
Motion is medicine
You may not want to, but moving joints is important — even when they’re stiff. Movement is an integral part of keeping your joints mobile and limber. Stop moving, and you’ll quickly experience an increase in pain, stiffness, and functionality. Our advice? Take a walk or jump on the elliptical for some gentle exercise.
When you have an injury, ice is the first thing you usually apply to bring down inflammation. Arthritis works in the same way.
Using cold packs to alleviate symptoms can be really effective. You can easily find them online, or if you love DIY projects, you can make your own. Read our article to see how you can make your own cold pack right at home.
Take time to stretch
Those stiff joints could use a little TLC.
Stretching targets muscle groups and enhances joint mobility. If you want to improve your day-to-day life and how you feel, add stretching to your routine and see if you don’t feel better. Just remember to not push stretching to a point of discomfort.
Make Your Appointment at Physio Physical Therapy
Arthritis pain doesn’t have to rule your life. Our physical therapists will work with you to help alleviate pain in your appointment and give you exercises for joint mobility to do at home.