Physical Therapy for Arthritis Pain

Have you considered physical therapy for your arthritis pain? If you suffer from arthritis, you may be afraid that activity will make the pain worse, or even cause damage that will worsen the condition over time. Studies show that activity can actually help reduce inflammation and pain from arthritis – motion is lotion! But it can be intimidating to start an exercise program to treat your arthritis on your own. A physical therapist can help you get started and give you the information you need to target your pain efficiently and get the greatest benefits.

Types of Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis complained of by sufferers. Symptoms are generally the result of the breakdown of cartilage around the joints. Osteoarthritis pain can occur from overuse, misalignment or improper posture during activity, or from a past injury. Cartilage and synovial fluid work as lubrication in the joint and as a way to distribute force. Once the cartilage begins to decrease, bones can rub together and cause pain. In very severe cases, bones can even chip and bone spurs can appear, making the joint even more painful. Osteoarthritis appears most often in the hands, knees, hips, and spine.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the linings of the joint (also known as the synovial membrane). The inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis is painful and can lead to deformity in the joint and even bone loss. Most sufferers experience pain, swelling, tenderness, stiffness, and a feeling of warmth in the joint. Excessive rest often exacerbates pain, and if left without treatment, rheumatoid arthritis can spread from hands, wrists, and feet to other parts of the body, including the hips, shoulders, and knees. The disease often expresses symptoms including chronic exhaustion, recurring fever, a decrease in appetite, and weight loss.

Treatment Options: More Than One Approach

The symptoms of both forms of arthritis can be treated pharmacologically with medication. Rheumatoid arthritis is primarily treated with medication, but in both cases, physical therapy can be extremely helpful in treating the symptoms of arthritis. RA patients often see a significant amount of relief from physical therapy techniques like Manual Therapy, which allows your physical therapist to stimulate mobility and decrease pain from the joint. Rheumatoid arthritis also responds well to typical physical therapy techniques that encourage proper posture and strengthening to protect your joints.

Osteoarthritis patients are particularly well positioned to benefit from physical therapy for arthritis symptoms. Specifically selected exercises can help not only treat the symptoms of osteoarthritis by increasing the amount of lubrication in the joints, but also can prevent the onset of arthritis and painful symptoms.

Many osteoarthritis symptoms are worsened by poor alignment and improper exercise techniques, making it especially useful to learn the proper way to exercise from a physical therapist. Runners with no symptoms can avoid much of the damage that leads to osteoarthritis by having their gait and posture analyzed by a licensed physical therapist to avoid damage to the joints.

Getting Started: Do it Right

Contacting a physical therapist is a great first step to treating your arthritis and reducing your symptoms. Your physical therapist will give you a guide to exercising with a focus on proper body mechanics and give you tips on how to assess your progress. You can use the knowledge they give you to improve your overall joint health, and may suggest a few of the following:

Low impact exercise like swimming or using the elliptical trainer can help your joints increase lubrication without contributing to inflammation.

Strengthening exercises will help your body to support your joints and make activity easier while removing extra force or stress that is being placed on your Joints.

Focusing on posture will help you not only to decrease pain and find relief from symptoms, but it can actually prevent some types of osteoarthritis, especially in athletes who perform repetitive motions, like runners, golfers, and tennis players.

Our physical therapist Erica Binzer, DPT and her colleagues here at Move Better will begin by performing a thorough examination and discussion of your symptoms and goals. Your treatment will consist of manual therapy, exercises, stretches and education regarding do’s and don’ts in order to get you feeling better quickly. Even if you have never had symptoms of arthritis, you can come in for an evaluation for preventative exercises and stretches you can start today. Proper posture and biomechanics when exercising, doing housework, and completing everyday tasks can reduce the potential for joint damage and injury. Contact Move Better Physical Therapy at 434-817-0980 today to find out how you can benefit from physical therapy for arthritis!