May is National Arthritis Month; a time to raise awareness and support for the millions of Americans living with arthritis. Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints. According to the CDC, arthritis affects more than 54 million adults in the United States. That makes it one of the leading causes of disability.
But there is hope for people with arthritis. Physical therapy is a proven and effective treatment to manage symptoms, improve function, and enhance quality of life. Physical therapists are licensed professionals who evaluate and treat conditions that limit the body's ability to move and perform daily activities. They can also teach you how to prevent or reduce the impact of arthritis on your health and well-being.
Physical therapy for arthritis can help you:
• Ease pain. Physical therapists can use things like massage, joint mobilizations, exercise, braces or splints, to relieve pain and inflammation in the affected joints.
• Increase range of motion. Physical therapists can design a personalized exercise program that includes stretching, strengthening, coordination, and balance exercises to improve your flexibility and mobility.
• Improve movement patterns. Physical therapists can teach you proper posture and body mechanics for common activities, such as getting in and out of chairs, climbing stairs, walking, or working. This can help protect your joints to slow down or prevent progression of your symptoms.
• Enhance your fitness level. Physical therapists can help you create a home workout routine that matches your goals and abilities. They can also show you how to exercise safely and effectively without aggravating your arthritis symptoms.
• Maintain function. Physical therapy can help you maintain or restore your ability to perform everyday tasks like cooking, gardening, shopping, or playing with your grandchildren.
Physical therapy treatment for arthritis is based on scientific evidence and tailored to your individual needs. It can also complement other treatments for arthritis, such as medications, bracing, or topical products. Research has shown that physical therapy can be more effective than steroid injections at reducing pain and disability in people with knee osteoarthritis. It can also have positive effects on fatigue, cardio fitness, cognition, and body composition in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
If you have arthritis or know someone who does, don't let this month pass by without taking action. Contact your physical therapist for an appointment. You can also visit the websites of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) or the Arthritis Foundation to find a physical therapist near you or learn more about physical therapy for arthritis. Celebrate National Arthritis Month by taking charge of your health and your life with physical therapy!
(1) How Does Physical Therapy Help Arthritis?. https://www.healthline.com/health/arthritis/doesphysical-therapy-help-arthritis.
(2) Physical Therapy for Arthritis. https://www.arthritis.org/healthwellness/treatment/complementary-therapies/physical-therapies/physical-therapy-for-arthritis.
(3) Ways physical therapy can alleviate arthritis pain. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/physical-therapy-for-arthritis.
Arthritis is a chronic condition that causes inflammation of the joints. It can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling. The hips, knees, hands, and spine are the most commonly affected joints. Arthritis is not a single disease but an umbrella term that includes a variety of different types. Some of the more common examples are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. While physical therapy might not be the first treatment you think of for arthritis, it probably should be.
A lot of people with arthritis choose to use medication to manage their pain, stop activities that hurt, and wait for things to get bad enough to have a joint replacement. But this isn't a great plan, all medications have side effects, even over the counter ones. Reducing activity leads to muscle atrophy and even stiffer joints. Even though joint replacement surgery usually has good outcomes, it does come with its own set of risks and a painful recovery.
Physical therapy has been extensively researched as a treatment for arthritis, and demonstrates good outcomes. Physical therapists typically start with exercise as the base for arthritis treatment. Exercise helps to regain lost joint motion, decrease feelings of stiffness, and strengthen muscles surrounding the affected joint. These benefits are all somewhat obvious. What surprises many people is that exercise has been shown to be as effective as medication for pain relief in many types of arthritis, without the side effects.
Physical therapy has more to offer people with arthritis than just exercise though. Education helps people understand their condition, what to expect, and how to manage it. As experts in human movement, physical therapists are especially good at helping people modify the way they perform certain tasks or activities to reduce strain on joints affected by arthritis. They can also suggest ways to modify the environment at work or home to reduce pain and improve function. They may also suggest things like braces, orthotics, or other devices that can help maintain mobility and reduce pain.
On top of all of that, PT has been proven to be a cost effective treatment, too. With so many techniques that are proven effective in helping people with arthritis, physical therapy is a recommended first line treatment for many types of arthritis. Now that you have a better understanding of what PT can do, hopefully you'll think of PT first when you think of arthritis too.
References: 1. Research (peer-reviewed) a. PT for juvenile RA - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1946625/ b. PT for hip and knee OA - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33034560/ c. Systematic Review for Juvenile RA - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28729171/ 2. Articles and Content a. Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Physical Therapy for Knee Osteoarthritis- https://www.rheumatology.org/About-Us/Newsroom/PressReleases/ID/718 b. Can physical therapy reduce arthritis pain? - https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/physical-therapy-for-arthritis