Arthritis is a group of degenerative diseases that affect your joints. More than 50 million American adults have some form of arthritis. It’s more common in women and older people and is the leading form of disability in the United States.
Arthritis issues can range from mild to severe and debilitating. Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis, but there are ways to manage it so that it does not cause you pain or interfere with your daily activities. Physical therapy is one of the best and most effective ways to help reduce joint pain and stiffness and increase mobility.
Physical therapy is a health care specialty where a physical therapist, a licensed professional with a graduate degree, helps patients improve their mobility and physical functioning through exercises and other modalities. A physical therapist assesses your mobility, strength, and flexibility and designs a personalized treatment plan to help you get around better.
A physical therapist may use massage, heat and cold therapies, manual manipulation, and assisted devices as part of your treatment plan.
Most treatment plans for arthritis involve a variety of management tools, which often include a combination of medication, exercise, and physical therapy. Although some people skip the medication altogether and find better results with physical therapy and exercise only.
Depending on the severity, area of your body, and issues related to your arthritis, your physical therapist will develop a personalized treatment plan to help you find relief from your arthritis.
Here’s how physical therapy and a physical therapist can help:
After an evaluation, a physical therapist can teach you exercises to do at home that will help strengthen the muscles surrounding your damaged joints to put less pressure on them.
Sitting at a desk or getting in and out of car may come naturally to you, and you’d never think you need to learn how to do them properly. But sometimes you may develop bad habits because of muscle weakness or the way your body is built that can lead to pain and problems. Learning good posture and body mechanics can help relieve pain and pressure on your joints.
Another way to relieve pressure on your joints and help with movement and mobility is through assisted devices such as walkers and canes. While you may know the basic method of holding a cane or using it, learning how to get into a rhythm of walking with it and using it properly can help you feel more confident and less awkward.
While your range of movement or muscle strength may improve but not fully return, the good news is that assisted devices such as stools, hand grips, swivel car seats, and other helpful gadgets can make your life easier and less painful. A physical therapist is familiar with these types of products and recommends the best ones for your lifestyle.
Sometimes with arthritis, you may get into a bad cycle. You’re in pain, and you feel stiff, so you don’t exercise. Since you’re not moving around enough your joints get stiffer and more painful. But the more you move around and stretch, the better you’ll feel. A physical therapist can work with you to develop a stretching and movement plan to help loosen your joints and improve your mobility.
For more information on how to best manage your arthritis, call the International Spine Pain & Performance Center with offices in Washington, DC, and Arlington, Virginia, or make an appointment online.